Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports $2.5 million dollar facility at Sugarbush Resort’s Mount Ellen is set to be complete by next month.
The new facility offers free programs year-round to people with disabilities and veterans. It will also have weekly programs that meet once a week in the winter at Sugarbush on Fridays and Bolton Valley on Thursdays.
Misha Pemble-Belkin, the Veteran Program Coordinator, served two tours in Afghanistan.
“I was a frontline soldier and I saw a fair amount of combat,” Pemble-Belkin said. “I was traumatized at a young age. I was 21 when I first went over there, and I was very young.”
Pemble-Belkin said when he returned home the biggest challenge was re-integrating into society.
“When you come back and you have been traumatized to the level that many of these combat soldiers endure, it’s hard to find that passion that you once had,” Pemble-Belkin said.
But Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports gave him the opportunity to re-discover his passion.
“I finally found that peace back in the mountains,” Pemble-Belkin said. “Through snowboarding, I have been able to regain that foothold.”
For over 30 years, Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports operated out of a 400 sq. ft. space at Sugarbush Resort’s Mount Ellen. The new three-floor, 4,000 sq. ft. space will connect to the resort’s current base lodge.
Program Director Felicia Fowler said accessibility is the top priority.
“It will be three floors with an elevator to get to each floor,” Fowler said. “Accessible restrooms on each floor.”
“Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and ice climbing in the winter,” Fowler said.
Pemble-Belkin said veterans have a tendency to isolate themselves, but here at the facility, it will feel like a second home.
“A place like this allows you to get out of that isolation and feel okay coming out, out of that hiding you go into sometimes,” Pemble-Belkin said. “I think that is the importance of having a place like this.”