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Exploring the Outdoors

Colorado Discover Ability

Exploring the outdoors in the Grand Valley is an activity that most residents do daily. In fact, the outdoor recreation here is a large attraction for visitors as well. It is easy to take for granted the beauty of hiking the many trails at the Colorado National Monument, mountain biking at the Lunch Loops trails, walking on the Riverfront Trail, rafting the Colorado River and skiing at Powderhorn Resort. However, the reality is that 10% of Mesa County residents aren’t able to easily explore the outdoors due to different disabilities.

Fortunately, the need to have an organization to provide proper training and guidance in adaptive outdoor recreation was realized. In 1980, Powderhorn Handicapped Ski Program, Ltd. was established to provide educational and therapeutic outdoor experiences to the disabled population in Western Colorado. In 1987, their name changed to Colorado Discover Ability to reflect their vision to provide recreational opportunities in other sports as well. During the summer CDA’s focus shifts to providing water-based recreation, such as river rafting and related camping activities. CDA also offers a summer camp for teens and children, and various clinics like adaptive cycling. In 2022, CDA served 140 participants. They hope to increase that number in 2023.

Thanks to Colorado Discover Ability, their participants are having engaging experiences and important life skills are being developed. Positive changes are being realized in the areas of independence, self-esteem and physical health; concurrently, participants are experiencing reduced feelings of isolation, depression and symptoms of mental and/or physical challenges. “Aubrey” illustrates CDA’s impact. At 16 years old, Aubrey first participated in a CDA Women’s Rafting Trip. Having Autism Spectrum Disorder and not knowing any other participants, the social aspects of this overnight trip were difficult. When the wind and rain suddenly came up, Aubrey panicked and insisted, “Call 911! Call 911!” Her anxiety led to fear and anger but as the weather improved and a CDA volunteer taught her chords on a guitar, Aubrey began to relax. The next year, Aubrey simply took a walk, remaining calm when threatening weather arrived.

This past summer, she checked her tent, made adjustments and waited out the storm playing ards with the other girls. The trip was highlighted by Aubrey’s paddling a single inflatable kayak through rapids, helping unload rafts at takeout, even singing while playing her ukelele. When asked about navigating rapids, Aubrey reported, “my intuition took over and I knew what to do.” Through involvement with CDA, Aubrey is learning to self-manage, enjoy the outdoors, make new friends and be part of a team. What tremendous growth and accomplishment!

The next time you are exploring the Grand Valley and you see the Colorado Discover Ability Team with a participant, stop and say “Hello”. If you would like to get involved, they are ALWAYS in need of volunteers for winter sports, summer adventure camp, rafting and SUP trips, equipment maintenance support, cycling, tennis, hockey … you name it! If you have a talent, a skill or simply just a passion for adaptive outdoor recreation, CDA can find a volunteer place for you! Contact them today at (970) 257-1222.

10% of Mesa County residents aren’t able to
easily explore the outdoors due to different disabilities.