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Rhythm Rally Fundraiser: Snowboarding for a Cause

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Hale shreds the course. Photograph by Maggie Zawalski.

The Fairplay ski run at Copper Mountain ski resort, Colorado, was closed to the public on February 2. Replacing the moguls that usually pepper the evergreen tree-flanked hill was a banked slalom, single-track snowboard course. The series of about 20 turns were tighter at the top, becoming more sweeping farther down the chute. The snow was powdery, the weather frigid, and the wind was blustery at times. Ninety-nine participants competed at the event, billed as the Rhythm Rally.

The Rhythm Rally fundraiser benefitted Adaptive Action Sports (AAS), a nonprofit organization that was founded by Daniel Gale and Paralympian snowboarder Amy Purdy. Purdy became a household name last year with her performance on season 18 of Dancing with the Stars; she and dance partner, Derek Hough, took second. She also was featured in a Toyota commercial during this year’s Superbowl. Almost $10,000 was raised from the Rhythm Rally, through a raffle and silent auction, and from a donation from Freedom Innovations, Irvine, California. AAS will use the funds to support Paralympic hopefuls and create action sports opportunities for youth, young adults, and veterans living with physical disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Participants could compete as part of a five-rider team or individually. Each racer was given a practice run and two chances to post official times. Twelve teams and 39 individuals competed.

Racing for one of the event sponsors, Boa Technology, Denver, were Andrew Hale and Dustin Fleming. The two, who are Paralympic hopefuls, each have a lower-limb amputation. They also helped build the course and have benefitted from AAS programs. Both men are fitted with Revolimbs with Boa Closure Systems, and they said that one benefit is that if they are freeriding through trees and their socket is too loose, with a turn of the Boa dial they can achieve the desired tightness without having to take off their pants and prosthesis.

Fleming said he helped hand-shape the first eight or nine turns. “They were tight,” he said. “They were meant to be that way: good walls to ride so you could get all your G-force into the turn and be sideways going into it. The berms were awesome…if you had a good pace you could stay high on them.” As a relative newcomer to the sport-he took it up in 2012-he fared well, taking third-place in the Men’s Adaptive category, sharing the podium with Zachary Miller who took first, and Jay Gaines, who took second. Scoring top three in the women’s category were Brenna Huckaby, Purdy, and Meghan Harmon.

“My practice run felt good,” said Hale, who is also a competitive skateboarder. “Riding something [I helped] build was cool. That top section was tough.”

Despite the difficulty of the course, Hale and Fleming said they had a great time. Snowboarding, they say, has helped their healing process after their amputations. “The reason I stuck with [snowboarding] is because my head would clear of everything else,” Fleming said. And beyond that, the two have found a community that they fit in with.

“I think it’s a good choice to get out there and snowboard,” Hale said. “It’s a big community. Everybody helps out everybody. If you have some questions about something, we’ll help you. If you want to ride with one of us and see how we ride and get pointers, we’re glad to do that, or even go out and just ride with you. Just get out there and do it.”

AAS “would like to thank everyone who participated and those who volunteered to make the first annual Rhythm Rally possible,” said AAS Office Manager/Events and Programs Assistant Mallory Gemlo. “We are very excited to see the turn out next year.”