There are a myriad of different ways to give to the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC), and when we consider someone like Brad Taylor, he nearly covers them all. The Oklahoma native gives back with his time and energy through our Volunteer Program, provides much needed funding and support to the Adaptive Ski and Snowboard Program, donates valuable equipment, and inspires other individuals to give.
Taylor first came to BOEC 22 years ago after reviving his interest in skiing when first learning how to ski at Snowmass Ski Resort. This was significant because it was the first time Brad attempted skiing after “being in his chair.” It was also on this trip to Snowmass that he learned about BOEC, which led him to book his first adaptive ski lesson, leading to a long and prosperous relationship between the two.
Brad shares that skiing is very important to him because it gives him a sense of freedom and independence that was abundant in his life before his accident. “I can go as fast or as slow as I want,” he says. “Just to be able to be at the top of the mountain and look around…I couldn’t believe what getting out there meant to me, and that I could truly feel the freedom of skiing again.”
It wasn’t always easy though, Brad explains. “The transition from adaptive skiing with BOEC staff and volunteers to skiing independently was probably one of the hardest things to learn.” He ponders that if he were skiing every day it would maybe be a different story, but he was coming to Breckenridge all the way from Oklahoma City by himself and felt he needed the added support to build his confidence. “I would get back to the hill and be exuberant but then my mono-ski would fall over on a quick turn and I would get so frustrated. I just wanted to be good!” Brad explains that he very well could have said “screw-it” at the time, but he has a perseverance inside that guides him. “Each time you come back to BOEC you get better and better. The instructors and volunteers are first class, honest, so well trained, and patient and helpful.”
It’s no surprise that one of his most memorable moments at BOEC was when he was able to accomplish his first run where he was completely independent on the mono-ski. “Breaking away from being tethered, the freedom to do this on my own, just knowing I could do it, and then I did it, was just extraordinary!” Brad shares that you should always have a goal that you want to get better. That’s why he is still out there shredding on his mono-ski to this day.
Brad has accomplished this mentality of always getting better, not only on the slopes, but in his personal life as well. “I grew up really poor and worked my way into the success I have today. And now I have the ability to give back.”
According to Brad, simply being at the BOEC Ski Office and seeing the faces of the kids and adults who are arriving for the first time with trepidation to head out onto the mountain, and then coming back at the end of the day with smiles on their faces is just unbelievable. “I just want to keep contributing to that feeling that everyone at BOEC feels at the end of the day. I want to make it easy for everyone and play my part in helping to sustain what is important in life, and that is what organizations like the BOEC do for others.”
“Once you’re in a chair, you can get into this mental space of ‘being limited,” he continues. “Just to know how it feels to be out there on the mountain tops, to not be limited, I want to make sure as many people as possible can experience this no matter what. No matter the condition or circumstance. Some people are also limited financially because skiing can be expensive, and I want to help in that respect too.”
Brad exudes the exact spirit that the BOEC exemplifies on a daily basis as we remove barriers to getting out on the mountain or by participating in any type of outdoor recreation, no matter the season. This is why, in an average year, BOEC grants around $250K in scholarships to its participants. In 2020, for example, 58% of participants received scholarships to participate in BOEC’s world-class ski, snowboard and wilderness programming.
Brad’s ethos aligns so succinctly with this giving attitude that he not only contributes financially, but like the true philanthropist he is, he also donates his used equipment, which is appreciated beyond words. After recently buying a brand new KBG mono-ski for himself, he donated his old one to the ski program.
“Anytime someone donates equipment to our program, it is a huge asset for us,” says BOEC Ski Program Director Jeff Inouye. “The more equipment we have, the better we can fit each participant to their specific needs, which in turn enhances their skiing experience. We love it when people like Brad become independent and can enjoy skiing with their families!”
As if this giving spirit is not enough, Brad is constantly encouraging others to come check out what the BOEC has to offer. He shares how important and accessible the BOEC is. “For anyone with any type of disability or special need, there is the BOEC. I want everyone to know about how many opportunities there really are within this organization.”
“It’s very hard to explain how being in a chair makes you feel,” he says. “Before I met BOEC, every day I would look at all the things I could no longer do, and that can be dangerous. At the BOEC, you get out of that mentality and experience an attitude of ‘I can do this’ instead.’”
Perhaps this attitude is no more exemplified than when he was shredding on his mono-ski last year at Snowmass when he met a woman at the bottom of the slope who was very curious about his mono-ski and how he does it. He shared with her that she could ski too, despite her visual impairment. She was so encouraged by this conversation that she booked a lesson with BOEC.
What’s more, is that one of Brad’s best friends and neighbors, Todd Brown, now skis with us and donates back to BOEC as well. Clearly, Brad’s impact is exponential.
At the end of the day, it’s all about that can-do attitude that Brad exudes from every pore, and the BOEC making that a reality for so many. Brad not only enjoys skiing with the BOEC in the winter, but enjoys the beautiful environment and accessibility at BOEC’s 39-acre wilderness site in the summertime as well.
Thanks to a grant from the Craig H. Nielsen foundation, BOEC was able to construct three wheelchair accessible camping platforms at the site for accessible outdoor group camping. While these are reserved for groups at the moment, Brad is working with our program team to potentially allow families like his to come out, camp, and enjoy all that the outdoors has to offer. It’s his ultimate dream to be involved in the creation of more accessible options for families who have members in chairs, where multiple families can enjoy the outdoors together, but more of a vacation destination for all.
Brad, we think you are onto something and we encourage you to keep dreaming big and using your can-do attitude to change the world for the better like you already have for the BOEC. Thank you!