SNOWMASS (KDVR) — For 36 years the Veterans Administration and the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic have been prescribing time in the outdoors as very powerful medicine for wounded veterans.
The idea began in the 1980s at the VA hospital in Grand Junction as a way for veterans to recover and recuperate.
“Take them snow skiing, took them out there, offered them some recreational therapy opportunities. That’s what became the winter sports clinic,“ said Jason Strickland with the National Disabled Veterans Sports Clinic.
Since 1987 10,000 veterans have taken part in the winter sports clinic. That includes 45-year-old US Army veteran David Pettigrew. On July 7, 2003, Pettigrew lost his right leg in a fire fight in Iraq.
“About halfway through patrol, we got ambushed. Someone above and behind us on a balcony shot an armor penetrating RPG at my vehicle,“ said Pettigrew.
In August 2022, Pettigrew heard about the winter sports clinic, but growing up in west Texas, he did not know how to ski. Now he would learn to ski with one leg.
“Yeah, it was interesting,“ said Pettigrew.
Interesting enough to give it a go.
“I transitioned to a sit-ski which does what it says on the box. In this case, it was a bi-ski. So there’s two skis underneath the bucket that you sit in and I had an amazing instructor for this day. Samantha did such a good job of teaching me what I need to know,“ said Pettigrew.
Spinal cord injury, amputation, even visual impairment. This experience in the outdoors of Colorado shows veterans, they can return to an active lifestyle.
“It was incredible. It was absolutely phenomenal,“ said Pettigrew.
And absolutely awesome.