To learn more about STARS and its upcoming camps, visit www.steamboatstars.com
Steamboat Springs As her gondola car climbed Mount Werner on Wednesday, Andy Kennedy couldn’t wait to hit the trails. The hand cycles and mountain bikes were calibrated, the riders were eager and the weather was perfect. The event she had imagined was finally about to start. As she hopped on her mountain bike and joined the other cyclists on the trail, the inaugural Bikin’ the ’Boat Adaptive Cycling Camp began.
“I’ve been waiting for this for several years,” she said as she prepared to bike down the mountain with her husband, Craig, an avid adaptive cyclist, and other camp participants.
The Kennedys, who worked with Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports, or STARS, to host the camp, hope the event will continue to grow in Steamboat Springs. The camp let people with disabilities and their families ride a hand cycle, a three-wheeled vehicle powered by the arms, up and down the mountain. Sponsored by Custom Color, the event followed a fly-fishing camp STARS organized last month.
“A lot of people don’t think Steamboat is accessible to people with disabilities,” Craig Kennedy said. “We are here to change that.”
Cyclists and volunteers started Wednesday with a breakfast at the base of the mountain in Gondola Square where they swapped stories about previous biking excursions and imagined the thrills that awaited them on the zigzagging trails of Mount Werner.
Adaptive cyclist Darol Kubacz showed off the specialized hand cycles he brought with him from Phoenix. He said the bikes have so much potential to help riders with disabilities enjoy the outdoors that he had to bring them to Steamboat.
“It would get old to me if I rode on my own without sharing this type of fun with other people,” he said as he watched others try out his cycles in Gondola Square. “Maybe it will turn them on to something exciting instead of being stuck at home not knowing you can get up on the mountain and have fun.”
Kubacz and Craig Kennedy captured the attention of hikers and tourists on the mountain as they navigated their bikes down the stairs of the gondola station and onto mountain trails.
“I haven’t seen anything like it,” said Alan Koss, who was visiting Steamboat from Nebraska when he saw the bikes race by. “It’s really great to see them out here on the mountain having so much fun.”
Steamboat resident David Beattie also was impressed with the hand cycles and their ability to help people with disabilities experience the trails.
“The technology has really come a long way in the last 30 years,” he said. “You are starting to see a lot more of these types of bikes up here on the mountain.”
The camp was a three-day event and hosted less than 10 campers for each session. It concluded with a ride along Spring Creek Trail on Thursday. Organizers said the small size of the camps allows for more one-on-one time between coaches and campers. But STARS is optimistic that future events will continue to grow with more support from the community. The organization is working closely with local businesses and community members to make its presence known in Steamboat.
“We would love to see Steamboat become a destination spot for people with disabilities,” STARS board member Julie Taulman said. “The community is just starting to recognize the summer adaptive sports that are available here in Steamboat.”
Taulman said the nonprofit organization is focusing on new efforts to market the camps, and she noted that STARS benefits heavily from cash donations, fundraisers and local sponsorships.
Taulman’s son Kyle, 8, attended the camp and said he enjoyed his adaptive bike ride Wednesday.
“My favorite part of the ride was the downhills,” he said. “I was going pretty fast and riding one-handed.”
The cyclists couldn’t stop talking about their ride down the mountain as they arrived at lunch outside of the STARS offices, resting before another cycling session.
“We had fun out there,” Kubacz said. “It was great to be able to be here on the mountain and feel the freedom and independence that the bike gives.”