From a competitive dancer in Florida to an adaptive ski instructor in Colorado, Gardner Popp, BOEC’s Volunteer/Program Coordinator, is well acquainted with change and adaptability. Originally from Tampa, Florida, Gardner started dancing at the age of three, competing with her dance team for about ten years, and continuing on with her high school and college teams. Throughout her years at the University of Florida, Gardner studied Health Education and Behavior specializing in Community Health Promotion. However, instead of pursuing a career in her field of study directly, she found her passion while volunteering for a local school in Gainesville that serves students with intellectual disabilities and an internship with an adaptive gymnastics gym. Halfway through that internship, she knew her passion was to work with people with a variety of ability levels, and this was only the beginning.
Upon completion of her Bachelor’s degree, she applied for and was accepted to the BOEC winter internship. Gardner recollects her move to Breckenridge, Colorado to join the BOEC. “I started with the BOEC as a winter intern in 2019. Both my passion for skiing and working with individuals of varying abilities grew immensely and I was hooked. Despite having my internship cut short due to the onset of COVID-19, and my following summer internship canceled, I came back as a full-time instructor for the 2020-2021 winter season.” Gardner hasn’t looked back, she has moved up from intern to instructor to volunteer/program coordinator quickly, embracing each role and dedicating her time and energy to each position she has held.
In her time with BOEC, Gardner has helped many individuals in both summer and winter seasons achieve activities they may never have thought possible. She shares an impactful anecdote,
“One specific memory that stands out above the rest is the three days I spent with Paul Gertin, a skier from Canada who has lost 99% of his vision. When first assigned to this lesson, I was intimidated by Paul’s extensive file of advanced skiing at many mountains, specifically at Breckenridge Ski Resort. Immediately after meeting Paul, he mentioned that he wanted his first day to be spent doing “warm-up” runs on Peak 10, which consists of mainly black diamond terrain. I knew then that these would be some of the most memorable days of my instructing career to date. The bond that Paul and I were able to create is indescribable. Over our time together, we built enough comfort and trust that we explored all five peaks together and even skied bowls under the Imperial chair. Paul was able to teach me so much on a personal and professional level and I will always remember this time as a milestone in my VI guiding.”