I was really psyched when Colorado Mountain College called me up and I learned they had chosen No Barriers for their Common Read Program. It resulted in a really fun week and getting to know an amazing school. To cap off their read, they invited me to come speak at 4 of their campuses.
My introduction to CMC came through my good friends, Jeff and Carrie Hauser. 15 years ago, Jeff showed up on a “blind date” to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with me. We hit it off, and have been adventuring ever since, even as Jeff has embraced his new role as CEO of Challenge Aspen, becoming a leader in the adaptive outdoor recreation industry. Rounding out the “power couple,” is his wife, Carrie, President of CMC. Both avid skiers, athletes, and innovators, Jeff and Carrie became the driving force to bring my message to the CMC community – I feel pretty lucky to have friends like them.
With a resurgence in snowfall, we decided to maximize the week, skiing the nearby resorts by day, and speaking to the schools and communities by night. My longtime ski guide, Jeff Ulrich, my son, Arjun, and his friend, Sam (both on their spring breaks), and I packed into our minivan with a Tupperware filled with homemade chocolate chip cookies. Our first stop was Steamboat Springs and before the talk at the campus, Jeff and I had the pleasure of teaching a blind ski clinic to a group of adaptive athletes as part of the STARS program (Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports). The participants personally guided their blind guinea pig (me) down the mountain. Joel Berman, a force of energy and enthusiasm, led the pack, and we ended up having such a great time we extended the clinic well past it’s Noon close to the very last lift of the day.
Ready to start our STARS clinic at the Steamboat resort.
Our group getting ready to blast down the mountain.
Taking off down the trail.
That evening we headed to the Steamboat campus, where we were greeted with a packed house! The events were open to the public so buddies of mine, like Craig Kennedy, a badass sit skier, showed up that night to support me and read a passage from my book during my talk. The rest of the week continued in a similar fashion: ski excellent snow by day and speak to an enthusiastic audience at night. Each campus featured a unique and powerful community; Edwards had a high percentage of students learning English as a second language and I was blown away to learn that No Barriers was the very first book they read in English. Summit county has classes focused on Wilderness Emergency Medical Services where folks learn backcountry and swift water rescue skills. These students will end up in the field saving lives! In addition, my friend Melissa Simpson showed up in Summit. Melissa has been in a wheelchair her entire life, but recently graduated from CMC and has taken up Crossfit to fight against her physical challenges. At the Glenwood campus, families showed up in droves, and my friend Mike Brumbaugh, owner of Venture Sports and a dirtbag climber at heart, made his second appearance of the week!
Getting ready to speak at Steamboat.
Group photo at Steamboat campus.
With Melissa Simpson (right) at Summit County.
Speaking to a group like CMC is special because these are folks who really live for the outdoors; most were familiar with rock climbing, kayaking, and the worlds I’ve inhabited for so many years. Because of this I was able to dive deeper into the meaning of No Barriers, adding color and narrative in a meaningful, authentic way as I addressed rooms full of people that “get it.” Most importantly, It was a treat to meet students who are in the midst of their own journey, are pushing the envelope, and discovering what their own No Barriers life is all about. By the end of the week, there was no question that CMC has a tightly bonded Rope Team. What an honor to be part of it.