Joel Reichenberger: Another realm for Kennedy

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— In plenty of ways, it’s been an entirely average autumn for Craig Kennedy.

Kennedy etched his name in the Steamboat snow by helping open doors for adaptive athletes everywhere, showing those recently and long-ago injured that no matter their disability, there’s a way to adapt to the sport or activity they love.

The Steamboat Springs adaptive sports icon — along with his wife, Andrea, and the staff at Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports — has been preparing for another winter season.

STARS will have staff on hand at Steamboat Ski Area this winter to help adaptive athletes pick up skiing and snowboarding, and the three weeks of training to whip that staff into shape will keep the organization busy right up until Christmas.

And planning already has begun for the seventh annual All-Mountain Adaptive Ski and Ride Camp, which is set to descend on Steamboat Springs from Jan. 8 to 13, an event for which Kennedy said organizers eagerly are seeking support in the form of donations, food and lodging. Anyone interested can email him at craig@steamboatstars.com, and anyone capable of helping should as the camp consists of day after day of jaw-dropping stories, many from military personnel wounded while fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan.

And of course, Kennedy is praying for snow, “every night,” he said.

But before any of that goes down, he’s set one carefully trained eye on yet another sport: hunting.

Kennedy doesn’t love hunting. He’s never done it, in fact. He’s shot guns before. He wielded a shotgun on another proving-it-can-work outdoor activity trip to a sporting clays range. But a rifle is new, and so is hunting.

He plans to set out on his first elk hunt early next month after he and Andrea took a hunter’s safety class in the summer.

He applied late in the process, but there are a few adaptive big game hunting tags held back every year, and by knocking out a phone call and a few forms, he had one.

The adaptation that will allow Kennedy, who lost the use of his legs in a skiing accident, into the backcountry and within range of an elk has been around for more than century. He’ll ride in a vehicle, a MULE outfitted with tracks to handle the snow, to be specific.

It won’t be easy, of course. There’s no quiet way to slip a vehicle in near a herd of elk, and camouflage can go only so far — even the densest of elk might question a rumbling “giant bush” rolling on tracks across their meadow.

But with a camo net, a grove of trees, a good scope and a careful shot, he likes his chances.

“Hopefully, we’ll have some fresh meat,” Kennedy said. “I’m pretty excited.”

He may never have taken aim at an elk, but Kennedy’s plenty used to breaking into a new frontier.

Happy hunting.

— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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