Athletes with disabilities take to the slopes, get celebrity training

Posted at 7:44 PM, Feb 20, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY -- Local celebrities helped teach new skills to some people who have special needs at Snowbird Ski Resort Saturday.

A non-profit organization called Wasatch Adaptive Sports teaches people with disabilities—mental, emotional, or physical—to try a sport that will make them feel better about their condition.

On Saturday, some people on the slopes were training for the “Steve Young Classic”, which is an event for people with disabilities to compete and raise money for the W.A.S. organization.

“You have to make the conscious choice to be happy,” said 22-year-old Tyler Schilhabel. “I thought I lost it for a little bit.”

Schilhabel was an avid athlete prior to a terrible ATV accident in September of 2010.

“I took a four-wheeler off a 30-foot dune,” Schilhabel said. “I hit the two front tires; my chest hit the handle bars, and I back flipped off.”

He was left paralyzed from the chest down, but that didn’t stop from wanting to compete in sports. That’s where W.A.S. stepped in.

Schilhabel is training to ski using a mono-ski and wants to compete. W.A.S. has been helping people with disabilities for 30 years. It started primarily with helping children, but now they help adults and the elderly get back onto the slopes.

“We focus on stroke survivors, amputees, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and acquired brain injury,” said W.A.S.’s associate director, Elizabeth Jahp.

Everyone had some pro-athlete help on the slopes on Saturday from the University of Utah’s Kyle Whittingham and his longtime buddy, former NFL player Lee Johnson. Even though Johnson joked about his friendship with Whittingham, the two are close and have been volunteering for more than a decade with W.A.S.

“I’m not impressed with Coach Whittingham at all, but Steve Young: He is the man,” Johnson said with a laugh. “No, Kyle Whittingham is kind of my idol. I played with him at BYU, and to see him take the time out—and I know how busy those head coaches are—that’s what makes it cool, and makes people want to be a part of the program.”

“It’s just great,” Whittingham said. “You can have an injury or a catastrophic event and be able to come back and still participate.”

That’s why Schilhabel has come back year after year, and he hopes more people who might be reluctant to try to challenge their disability decide to join him on two skis, or one.

Click the respective links for more information on the W.A.S. and the “Steve Young Classic."