State tourism board gives nod to disabled travelers

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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS -- Members of the Colorado Tourism Office Board, meeting here Monday, said they would begin incorporating images of disabled travelers on their Web page.

The announcement came against the backdrop of the Disabled Alpine World Cup taking place on the slopes of Mount Werner this week. It was prompted by a presentation from Steamboat Springs adaptive recreation consultant Craig Kennedy.

Kennedy told board members that Colorado is increasingly friendly to travelers with disabilities who seek outdoor recreation. However, he said, more could be done to communicate opportunities in the state.

"If we can give these people answers and tell them there are places to go, it goes a long way," Kennedy said. A wheelchair user, he has a passion for skiing.

Tourism Board Chairman Steve Szapor liked what Kennedy had to say.

"We need to take action before we lose this idea," Szapor said. "We need to use some new photos mixed in with our existing collages," printed in Colorado tourism promotional pieces.

Kennedy's talk was entitled "Travelers with Disabilities, the Untapped Market." He told the board members that Colorado is well positioned to lead other tourism states in reaching out to millions of Americans who enjoy active vacations. Kennedy said his efforts to make Steamboat Springs a more accessible travel destination have been well received by the city of Steamboat and the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.

The city acquired an adaptive golf cart for wheelchair users last summer, and Ski Corp. is adding an adaptive gondola car.

"I'm glad you guys are here this week so you can see what these (adaptive ski racers) can do and see the need and keep people coming back to Colorado," Kennedy said.

State Rep. Al White R-Winter Park and Colorado Ski Country USA executive Rob Perlman agreed that the most expedient way to reflect that the state welcomes disabled travelers is to incorporate photographs of adaptive recreation on the Web page.

"It could be done fairly economically," White said.

Kennedy, who has done extensive research about accessible recreational opportunities around the state, said Colorado is a leader, particularly in year-round recreation.

California is notable in terms of the numbers of adaptive athletes who live there, he said. Vermont and New Hampshire have good winter programs but are not as strong in the summer.

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