A Match Made on the Mountain: Western students team with Adaptive Sports in helping 'Powder Posse' take to the slopes

March 15, 2012 (by Laura Anderson, "Gunnison Country Times") — It was a warm, sunny morning as Corey Clawson and Joey Carpenter waited for the bus to Mt. Crested Butte, skis in hand, last Wednesday. This is not an uncommon sight along the streets of Gunnison, but what was unlikely about this pair was with whom they were preparing to spend the day on the slopes.

When the bus rolled up, Clawson and Carpenter boarded to join several of their classmates and three members of the group they would be skiing with — a group that has come to be known as the “Powder Posse.”

Clawson and Carpenter are both students in Western's field-based Colorado Outdoor Recreation Expedition, a semester-long activities-based curriculum in the Recreation and Outdoor Education program.

“There’s a lot of community service involved and they volunteer most of the semester,” said Mark Gibson, the faculty head of the CORE program. “But the real focus is getting practical, real-world experience for these students. This allows them to learn outside the classroom.”

The CORE program is largely student-designed, and this year, as part of the snow-based learning portion of the class (students also practice land- and water-based learning), they elected to volunteer with the Adaptive Sports Center in Crested Butte.

“We’re trying to get out in the community,” said Clawson.  “Adaptive is the perfect way for us to help out as best we can.”

ASC provides recreational opportunities for people with disabilities, by providing equipment and programs that allow them to experience the outdoors.

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“Working with CORE has been awesome,” said Jeff Perambo, ASC equipment and vehicles manager. “They bring a ton of energy with everything they do.”

CORE has been working with ASC throughout the semester, training on how to help those with disabilities through various workshops that require students to use adaptive technology, and volunteering weekly.

“We’re a large group,” Carpenter said about the 13 students that make up the CORE class. “Whenever (ASC) needs a big group of volunteers, they call us.”

And that is exactly how CORE came to be partnered with the Powder Posse. The Powder Posse is a group of adults, most of whom are involved in the Six Points program in Gunnison, who hit the slopes for a half-day at CBMR about once a month during the ski season.

Though some of the group members have been skiing with ASC for almost two decades, the “Posse” was officially formed two years ago in an effort to encourage socialization among members.

“It’s awesome to get those guys up on the hill,” said CORE student Ethan Dull. “I love to ski, so I like that I can share that.”

The early bus riders rolled up to the stop at Mt. Crested Butte and headed down to the ASC offices to gear up and hit the slopes. Each CORE student was paired with a member of the Powder Posse and by 9:30 a.m., they were off. 

Though most of the Powder Posse stuck to the groomers on the Red Lady and Painter Boy lifts, a few gave their CORE partners a workout, venturing to higher points on the mountain. At 10:30, the group congregated at the top of Painter Boy for introductions and activity instructions.

The human slalom that followed was replete with sweeping turns and raucous animal noises, which seem to be the Powder Posse’s trademark.

“It’s great to see the CORE program in action,” said Dr. Kathleen Kinkema, chair of the Department of Recreation, Exercise and Sports Science, who joined CORE and the Powder Posse on last week’s outing. “It’s also good socialization for (the Powder Posse), particularly on lifts and riding the bus back and forth.”

As the wind picked up and the clouds rolled in, the posse breezed down the mountain one last time. They returned their gear and said goodbye to their CORE and ASC companions and hurried to make their noon bus back to Gunnison.

The CORE students also returned to town, but in anticipation of their next workshop with ASC, where they will continue to volunteer until the mountain closes.

Story by Laura Anderson, staff writer, and posted with permission from the "Gunnison Country Times."

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 11:15am