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Challenge Aspen strives for an inclusive ski competition in ‘Limitless Mountain Challenge’

Adam Breman sits in his sit ski making a turn on a moderate ski rum with the support of Challenge Aspen instructor Thor Knutson holding onto the back of his seat.
Halle Zander
Aspen Public Radio
One hundred adaptive and able-bodied skiers — including one particularly optimistic business owner with cerebral palsy — competed to see how many vertical downhill feet they could ski in one day.

Challenge Aspen introduced a new program at Snowmass last week called the “Limitless Mountain Challenge.”

The fundraising event had athletes competing to ski the most downhill vertical feet in one day, but they could also win prizes by raising the most money for Challenge Aspen or soliciting the most donors.

The event brought out a range of different skiers on Saturday, April 8, both adaptive and able-bodied, competing against each other. That inclusivity was meaningful for Adam Bremen.

Bremen uses a sit ski to get down the mountain, which is a molded bucket seat with skis attached to the bottom. It’s operated with the support of an adaptive skiing instructor.

Bremen and his instructor, Thor Knutson, took a few laps on Wednesday, April 5 before the Limitless Mountain Challenge began.

He was excited to get back out on the slopes, despite some scary skiing experiences he’s had in the past.

“Any time you do something like this, there's an opportunity for injury or something bad to happen,” Berman said. “But you got to go for it. Like, you can't live life scared.”

Bremen has cerebral palsy—a birth defect that affects movement and coordination. In a way, he’s associated the condition with his optimistic personality.

“I was born three months premature,” Berman said. “I was so excited about life and being here that I wanted to come early.”

Bremen doesn’t like the term “disability” to describe the condition, because he can do anything an able-bodied person can do with a little creativity.

He prefers to say he has “unique opportunities.”

“I have as much ability as somebody else,” Berman said. “Embrace your uniqueness, and don't shy away from it because you can't change it. So you might as well embrace it and figure out how to work with it.”

Bremen skis, but he also surfs, water skis, and started the company CanDo, which makes keto-friendly protein bars.

He said the company is all about pushing people to be their best, because Bremen doesn’t like the word “no.”

“There's always a way to get around and always the way to figure out if you have an open mind and if you are patient,” Bremen said.

Rules of Play

Middle school students participating in the Limitless Mountain Challenge at the Snowmass Ski Area on April 8 review their score card. They begin developing a strategy for how to collect the most points in this fundraising event for Challenge Aspen.
Halle Zander
Aspen Public Radio
Middle school students participating in the Limitless Mountain Challenge at the Snowmass Ski Area on April 8 review their score card. They begin developing a strategy for how to collect the most points in this fundraising event for Challenge Aspen.

For the Limitless Mountain Challenge, adaptive and able-bodied skiers had from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 8 at the Snowmass Ski Area to ski as many downhill vertical feet as possible across the whole mountain.

They could participate either as individuals or as a team of four, so Bremen skied as a team with his beloved brother and two other friends.

Skiers could also pick up extra points by competing in mini-challenges at stations around the mountain.

Brenna Sandstrom is the development director for Challenge Aspen.

On Saturday morning about an hour before the event at the Snowmass Mall, she said those mini-challenges were designed to educate the public about adaptive skiing, one of which is a visually impaired course.

“Teams will work together as a pair, so there'll be one guide—a sighted guide—and one person who's going to close their eyes, and the sighted guide will have to navigate them through the course,” Sandstrom said.

She added that the organization was cautious about these events because they didn’t want to “gamify” disabilities. Rather, the emphasis was to enlighten skiers about some of the different ways people can ski.

“We want to make sure that we created challenges so people could experience what it's like to navigate the mountain in a different way or ski in a different way,” Sandstrom said.

Student Participation

Kids put on layers of ski gear while wearing gloves in the Limitless Mountain Challenge to test their dexterity when they don't have total control over their hands and fingers.
Halle Zander
Aspen Public Radio
Students put on as many items of ski gear as they can while wearing ski gloves as part of a dexterity challenge at the Snowmass Mall on April 8. They’re trying to earn extra points as they compete in Challenge Aspen’s Limitless Mountain Challenge.

Before they head out onto the slopes, a team of four middle school students kicked off the competition with a dexterity challenge.

While wearing ski gloves, they had one minute to put on as many pieces of ski gear as they could, getting a sense of what it’s like to have limited control over their hands and fingers.

The student-racers are able-bodied skiers, and one of the teammates, Alessa Oliver, says she’s excited that her team’s fundraising for the event can help make skiing more accessible.

“I have made plenty of friends through skiing and competitions, and I would love to give that opportunity to someone else to be able to go ski and have fun on the mountain like I do and go fast, and just get those first tracks,” Oliver said.

After the dexterity challenge was over, Oliver’s team took off to go skiing as their competitors were already spread out on different corners of the mountain.

Her team’s strategy was to take some laps under the Sam’s Knob lift and then find more of the mini-challenges.

Final Results

Adam Breman smiles in front of the CanDo tent in his sit ski surrounded by his instructors and employees.
Halle Zander
Aspen Public Radio
Adam Breman, bottom left, takes a ski break outside his company’s tent on April 5 near the NASTAR race course at the Snowmass Ski Area. He’s surrounded by his instructor Thor Knutson, top left, Challenge Aspen volunteer Jack Kramer and CanDo’s Chief Fun Officer Hayley Thorfinnson.

Oliver’s middle school crew won two of the team categories by raising over $15,000 for Challenge Aspen from 119 donors, and Bremen’s team raised the most money in the company category.

Bremen is grateful to his instructors and volunteers for the chance to ski with his brother again.

Even though the event was designed as a competition, the most valuable part of the day was getting out on the snow with his family.

“It's just awesome because that day it was the closest thing I've ever felt to walking,” Bremen said.

Bremen added that getting back on the ski hill and sharing these experiences with others helps him become a better person.

“When you talk about people that you love or experiences that you love, you feel better,” Bremen said. “And when you feel better, you do better. And when you're doing better, you're able to give back.”

The Limitless Mountain Challenge will be back again in the spring of 2024.

Halle Zander is a broadcast journalist and the afternoon anchor on Aspen Public Radio during "All Things Considered." Her work has been recognized by the Public Media Journalists Association, the Colorado Broadcasters Association, and the Society of Professional Journalists.