John F. Russell: Special Olympics gives Steamboat athlete opportunity of a lifetime |

John F. Russell: Special Olympics gives Steamboat athlete opportunity of a lifetime

Skier Sue White will represent the United States, Colorado and Steamboat Springs at the 2017 Special Olympic World Winter Games.
John F. Russell

— Sue White can’t recall the first time she went skiing, but over the past 30 years, she’s fallen in love with racing down snow-covered slopes and testing her skills between the gates of a race course.

“It’s my thing,” White will tell you with a huge smile on her face. “I ski twice a week on Sundays and Tuesdays.”

The longtime Steamboat Springs resident, who is enrolled in Horizons, has gotten pretty good during that time. She started skiing with a program at Steamboat Ski Area when she was younger and she’s now part of the STARS — Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports — program, which teaches her what she needs to know when it comes to racing.

White has gotten so good these days that she has a hard time deciding if she likes slalom, giant slalom or just skiing on the mountain better.

Later this week, her love of skiing will take her on the journey of a lifetime.

On Friday, she will board a plane in Denver headed to Washington, D.C., and on Saturday, she will be part of a huge sendoff for the American athletes competing in the 2017 Special Olympic World Winter Games.

By Monday, she will arrive in Austria where she will be a part of the American team competing in several Alpine events the following week. She will also attend the opening ceremonies, train and race during the week. She will wrap things up at closing ceremonies.

White will be accompanied on the first part of her journey by a chaperone and then a coach. She left Steamboat earlier this winter to train in Vermont, but she is by no means a world traveler. That was the furthest she has ever been from home.

“It’s going to be different,” White said of Schladming and Rohrmoos, Austria, where the Alpine events will be based. “I’m going to have to take lots of extra clothes.”

More importantly, White will be taking her smile, and her “I’ve never met a stranger” attitude. There is no question that White was the perfect choice to represent our country, our state and our town. Truth is that it would have been difficult to find a better representative. She is one of three athletes from Colorado and one of 139 from across the United States.

For years, I have covered Olympic athletes who travel around the world, and White may not have the same level of skills as an Olympian, but there is no question in my mind that she’ll bring the same love of skiing, the same love for our community and the same values to the competition.

Truth is White is one of the reasons Steamboat is so special.

She doesn’t train eight hours a day, seven days a week. On most days, you’ll find her standing behind a register at City Market bagging groceries. She almost always takes the time to look up and welcome you with a big hello and an even bigger smile.

Sure she would like to win her races, but unlike most athletes headed to a big international ski race, her main focus is not winning. White has kept things in perspective choosing instead to focus on the journey and make the most of the experience.

“I like meeting new people,” she says.

The Special Olympics establishes a new world of inclusion and community, where individuals are accepted and included regardless of their abilities or disabilities. The Special Olympics offer year-round training and competition in 32 different sports offering opportunities for 4.2 million athletes in 170 countries.

For folks wanting to support White in her journey, there will be a sendoff party from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday night at Carl’s Tavern. White’s trip is being paid for by Special Olympics Colorado, but those wishing to support the cause can make a donation at

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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