Olympian Andrew Weibrecht Skis With Kids at Double-H
Andrew Weibrecht’s “War Horse” nickname is well-deserved.
The two-time Olympic medalist earned the moniker by overcoming numerous injuries and surgeries during his world-class skiing career.
However, his obstacles are minor compared to the challenges faced by kids at the Double H Ranch in Lake Luzerne. The camp has served more than 20,000 children with life-threatening illnesses from around the world since opening in July 1993.
Weibrecht, of Lake Placid, paid a visit during a recent trip home before heading back to Europe where he’s competing on the World Cup circuit.
“It was truly a treat to be able to spend some time with those kids,” he said, via email from Austria. What they endure on a day-to-day basis is beyond what I can imagine, so it really puts into perspective the struggles that I’ve had and how minimal they really are. I have tons of respect for these kids and the families supporting them and it’s fantastic that there is an outlet like Double H that allows them an opportunity to get out and ski.”
Double H Ranch was founded by Storytown/Great Escape creator, the late Charles R. Wood, and the late actor Paul Newman.
The camp’s winter program is held each Saturday and Sunday from early January through March, hosting 25 kids per weekend. The site’s ski slope has two trails, a chairlift and a “magic carpet” that whisks kids partway up the hill.
Gwen Allard of Schenectady, who created the adaptive ski program for Double H, was also on hand for recent opening day activities. In 2001, she was inducted to the National Disabled Ski Hall of Fame at Loon Mountain, N.H.
“This is the only adaptive ski camp in the world that is independent of a resort and the only Paul Newman SeriousFun camp with a winter program,” said Emily Bailey Berry, a Double H board member. “The kids were just so excited to ski with Andrew. For them it’s already super-exciting to be at camp. Something like this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Weibrecht, the current top-ranked American skier, raced kids down the hill, tried out adaptive equipment including a mono-ski and let young admiring fans wear his medals. One young camper, Gabe Donovan of Albany, even challenged Weibrecht to a race and beat him down the hill.
Weibrecht won a bronze in super-G at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, followed by silver last February at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia. He began the 2014-15 World Cup campaign with three Top 20 finishes and has two more races on tap in Europe before returning to the U.S. for the World Championships in Beaver Creek, Colo.
His recent trip to Double H was his first time there.
“The professionalism of the whole program both in terms of the venue, amenities and the volunteer staff was very impressive,” Weibrecht said. “They truly provided a very comfortable and secure environment for those kids to get out and ski. Everything was 100 percent top notch in my opinion from top to bottom.”
In addition to skiing, Double H winter campers enjoy other activities such as sledding and giant bon fires. Kids visit Double H in summer for weeklong stays that include swimming, hiking and even tougher challenges such as an aerial ropes course.
“I only knew about if it as a summer program,” Weibrecht said. “ I used to work at the Sacandaga Outdoor Center in Hadley and we used to have quite a few kids from the camp come on trips with us. In terms of the skiing aspect, I had no idea it existed. A mutual friend of mine and the camp asked me if I would be interested in coming down to meet the kids for a day and that’s pretty much where it all started.”
They inspired him just as much, if not more, than he encouraged them.
“He was only home for three days so he really went above and beyond,” Berry said. “He’s such a nice guy, so down to earth.”
Weibrecht’s family owns the prestigious Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid