Special Olympians Shred the Mountain

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WOODSTOCK - Special Olympians are special both in name and in character. Yes, it's a competition, and yes, medals are awarded, but for these athletes, the games aren't about competition; they're about camaraderie.

Two boys who embody that camaraderie are Nate and Curtis Powers, twin teenage snowboarders from Lyndonville who've been competing in the winter games at the Special Olympics for the last two years. Curtis is a little bit louder, Nate's a little bit more serious, but they're both full of energy. When Nate was named Vermont's Special Olympics Sportsman of the Year, it would've been easy for Curtis to be jealous. Instead, he couldn't be more proud of his brother.

"He's nice, he's kind, you know?" Curtis said. "That's why he got this award."

Nate's humility showed as he spoke about the award. "It's not about winning this award," Nate said. "It's about having fun. It makes me wanna say, wow, I can't believe I won this kind of award. I'm very proud of myself."

The Powers boys were among hundreds of athletes competing at Suicide Six Ski Resort in Woodstock over the weekend. "We had about 250 [athletes competing], between snowshoe, cross country, alpine, and snowboarding," said Lisa DeNatale, the president and CEO of Vermont's Special Olympics. DeNatale's son was among the athletes competing over the weekend, and she, too, noted the impact the games can have on the competitors.

"I think the Special Olympics is really telling the story," DeNatale said, "about the capabilities, talents, and abilities, gifts, of people with intellectual disabilities. So often, I think they've been underestimated, in terms of what they can accomplish."

In total - between winter sports, summer sports, and year-round events like basketball - more than a thousand people with intellectual disabilities compete in the Vermont Special Olympics each year, from a pair of eight-year-old skiers to twenty-eight-year-old Elisha Buss, a Burke Mountain rider bursting with enthusiasm. Though the games at Suicide Six marked the end of the winter sports season, plenty of the athletes will continue to practice with Caledonia County's basketball team through the summer months. And the experience of the games will stay with these athletes for a long time.

"I mean, its not about the medals," said snowboarder Brian Gorham, one of the only Caledonia athletes to take gold. "It's all about having fun. That's what all the Olympics are about."