whitetail

Monday's Vertical Challenge at Whitetail Ski Resort showcases the ways in which skiing can be a sport for the disabled as well as the able-bodied.

Tricia Hines chose to amputate part of her right leg seven months ago so she could dance and ski without pain again.

Hines, 43, of Arlington, Va., is one of dozens of people who will participate in the third annual 100K Vertical Challenge at Whitetail Resort Monday, in Mercersburg, Pa., to benefit Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation. The Whitetail-based non-profit Two Top helps wounded warriors and other people with disabilities learn — or in some cases relearn — cold and warm weather sports, including skiing and waterskiing, using adaptive technologies.

This is the third year for the 100K Vertical Challenge. Participants ski 100,000 vertical feet, or 107 runs, during the all day event. This is also the first year that relay teams are allowed, Amy Reinink, a spokeswoman for the event, said. Reinink said allowing the relay teams allows more people to get involved who might have otherwise been daunted by the grueling physicality completing it requires. Reinink knows first hand; she participated during the first challenge.

“I could not have skied another run,” Reinink said.

The first challenge raised a little more than $12,000, Last year's event raised about $25,000. This year, organizers have an even more ambitious goal to raise $50,000. As of Monday, fundraising had reached about $41,000, Reinink said.

“The thing that I think is really special about this event is every single dollar goes to Two Top Adaptive,” Reinink said.

Two Top has already spent about $25,000 this year to help cover the cost of lift tickets, meals and other costs associated with skiing for about 110 people, Executive Director Bill Dietrich said. That includes about 70 wounded warriors and 40 non-military people, he said. Money raised by Monday's event will help fill gaps left from grant money that has dried up, he said. The program provided about 340 lessons last year and is already close to about 400 this season, he said.

“Our program is growing astronomically,” he said.

Hines will participate as part of a relay team. She volunteers for the ski patrol at Whitetail and was aware of Two Top but had not become involved until now. She said she “has an extra debt of gratitude” to wounded warriors. Technologies meant to help the disabled have improved because of soldiers' sacrifices, she said.

Hines uses a brace and special prosthesis instead of a ski boot.

After 10 surgeries and facing another two, Hines decided to amputate her right leg about eight inches below the knee to end the pain that had sidelined her from the slopes two seasons ago. The pain resulted from a minor running injury as a teenager that didn't heal correctly. She re-injured the ankle playing soccer about a decade ago.

“I'm so much more able now,” Hines said. “I chuckle to think that I'm considered disabled.”

Hines skied for the first time since the surgery in November and is skiing better now than she was two seasons ago. She said phantom sensation from the amputation is helpful for skiing because while she can still feel wiggling her toes, she can't feel the cold.

As part of the relay team, Hines will ski somewhere between 20 and 25 runs. Her team has raised about $2,000, she said. While she expects the event to be exhausting, “the worst part is going to be the drive home.”

Follow Courtney Mabeus on Twitter: @courtmabeus.

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