WHITEFISH – There are some days on Big Mountain that you try to avoid. It’s too cold, too foggy or the snow just isn’t very good, to name a few. But this winter, Rob Stabile won’t have the luxury of taking a day off.
Stabile, 62, has committed himself to skiing at least 2 million vertical feet this winter as part of a fundraiser for DREAM Adaptive Recreation Inc., a local nonprofit that helps individuals with disabilities experience the outdoors. Last year’s vertical feet record was 4.25 million feet and even skiing half of that would put Stabile in the top 10 or 20.
“I’m retired and I needed something to do so this is my new job,” Stabile said. “(When I came up with this) I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to be skiing a lot anyway, why not try and help someone at the same time?’”
But pushing his body to its physical extremes to raise money for others is nothing new for Stabile, who lived in California for many years and owned a pool and spa business. In the 1990s, he ran a marathon for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital; then he completed two triathlons to raise money for a California nonprofit with a mission similar to DREAM Adaptive; and lastly he biked 976 miles from Oregon to California as part of a fundraiser for the American Lung Association.
Just this year, Stabile pushed himself in a different way during the Great Northern Brewing Company’s annual Beer Barter, when he took a page from the old NBC reality show Fear Factor and ate some creepy crawlers. He won the barter and a year’s worth of beer, as well as a pints for a purpose night at the brewery to raise money for his brother, who has terminal cancer.
Stabile said this year’s ski challenge actually began last season when he saw volunteers with DREAM Adaptive at Big Mountain. Every winter, the organization brings people who are disabled to Whitefish Mountain Resort and helps them learn how to ski or snowboard. Director Cheri DuBeau-Carlson said the group has about 125 volunteers who offer lessons, free of charge, seven days a week during the winter. At the height of the season, the program serves about 130 participants every week, or 28 to 40 per day. Although it is an all-volunteer organization, there are some steep costs that must be covered. For example, a sit ski, which is used for wheelchair-bound skiers, costs more than $6,000 a unit.
DREAM, which stands for disabled recreation environmental access movement, was formed in Whitefish in 1985 and set out to make outdoor activities more accessible for everyone. They began offering skiing classes on Big Mountain modeled after a similar program in Winter Park, Colorado. In 2009, it expanded its offerings and began a summer program that helps people explore area lakes and forests.
DuBeau-Carlson said Stabile first approached the board with the idea this fall and they enthusiastically embraced it.
“It’s a really creative and thoughtful idea,” she said. “It’s a great way to raise awareness and funds for DREAM Adaptive.”
Since the season began, Stabile has been handing out pledge cards to anyone he sees and donors can pledge as much or as little as they want. For example, if someone pledges 1 cent per vertical foot, that will equal a donation of $300 for every 300,000 feet Stabile skis.
Stabile said it would be a fun challenge trying to beat last year’s record of 1,268,607 feet and added that knowing what he is doing will help a good cause is what keeps him going.
“Can you imagine being stuck at home and not being able to do much?” Stabile said. “DREAM Adaptive comes into these people’s lives and they help them enjoy the outdoors.”
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