In 1970, Hal O’Leary was a salaried ski instructor at Winter Park Resort when he volunteered to teach 23 amputee children to ski. He took three days off his regular teaching job and taught himself to ski on one leg using outriggers. O’Leary’s method, using smooth Christy turns, created a whole new system of skiing for people with disabilities.
O’Leary became a pioneer in disabled recreation, turning that one ski lesson into the National Sports Center for the Disabled, the largest program of its kind in the world. The program was long in the making O’Leary sometimes worked out of a broom closet, using worn-out skis the regular ski school was going to throwaway. But since the program began in 1970, more than 45,000 people with disabilities have learned to ski and participate in other sports through the National Sports Center for the Disabled.
Named one of “the best 100 things to happen to skiing” by Ski Magazine, O’Leary has coached the U.S. Disabled Olympic Team and has traveled around the world teaching other ski programs how to include people with disabilities. O’Leary has devoted almost half his life to enabling the spirit through sport.