Challenge Mountain History

Challenge Mountain began as a dream of Darla Evans, a parent of a child living with a disability. Her daughter was confined to a wheelchair with limited opportunities available for her to experience activities with family and friends. In 1982, Darla took her daughter, Chrissy, to the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, Colorado so she could learn to ski like her siblings and friends.

By the end of the week, five year-old Chrissy was skiing with special equipment adapted to her needs. She discovered a freedom she had never known, self-confidence and self-esteem!

The operator of the Winter Park program refused to accept payment for the week of skiing. Instead, he elicited a promise from Darla that she return to Michigan and begin a similar program, and this is where the story of Challenge Mountain begins.

In 1984 Everett Kircher, founder of Boyne Resorts, donated Walloon Hills Ski Area to Challenge Mountain and Darla’s dream became a reality. This was just the beginning to what has grown to become year-round adaptive recreation programs and opportunities for individuals living with disabilities in northern Michigan and beyond.

Challenge Mountain believes that having access to and participating in recreational and social activities is integral to the well-being and a fulfilling life for every person. With limited activities available to individuals living with disabilities to experience all northern Michigan has to offer, Challenge Mountain has grown over the last 30 years from offering only winter programs to providing over 1,800 individual experiences to new and returning participants and their families through various programs and outings all year long!

The heart and soul of Challenge Mountain are the dedicated and passionate volunteers who continue to donate their time and expertise to ensure year-round programming is a success. After 17 years of operating as a solely volunteer organization, Challenge Mountain hired its first Executive Director in 2001. Today Challenge Mountain program staff manages an extensive volunteer base that includes over 90 individuals from our local communities who contribute over 8,500 volunteer hours annually.

Challenge Mountain programming is supported financially through proceeds from the Challenge Mountain Resale Store which first opened its doors in Boyne Falls in 1986. Within five years, the store had outgrown the original location and in 1990 the organization invested in a larger facility in Boyne City. A second resale store was started in Petoskey in 2006. After more than 26 years in its longtime location on M-75, the Boyne City Resale Store moved in 2016 to a new location that has allowed the store to grow as a primary funding source for Challenge Mountain programming and a tremendous community resource.

Reach for the stars, anything is possible and the sky’s the limit are phrases we all want to hear and believe. At Challenge Mountain these words are put into action and their power is instilled in every participant, staff member, volunteer, family member, and friend. Past, present and future, Challenge Mountain represents opportunity – the opportunity to show support, take risks, conquer challenges and achieve our greatest potential, together.

Historical Highlights

  • 1982
    Darla Evans takes her daughter Chrissy to the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, Colorado to learn to ski and returns to Michigan to start an adaptive ski program.
  • 1984
    Everett Kircher, founder of Boyne Resorts, donates Walloon Hills Ski Area to Challenge Mountain and Darla’s dream becomes a reality.
  • 1986
    The Resale Store Opens in Boyne Falls and is established as a funding source for Challenge Mountain Programs.
  • 1990
    The Challenge Mountain ski program begins.
  • 1993
    Partner programs begin with the first visit from Camp Quality.
  • 1998
    Group programs grow to include Michigan Parents of Visually Impaired Children, Deaf and Blind Central, Great Lakes Burn Camp.
  • 1999
    Summer camps and watersports program begins.
  • 2001
    Challenge Mountain hosts the first Special Olympics, Area 33.
  • 2001
    First Executive Director hired.
  • 2003
    The Nightmare at Challenge Mountain debuts and becomes the organization’s largest fundraiser.
  • 2004
    Para-Olympian/X-games Champion Tyler Walker visits to share his inspiring story.
  • 2006
    Petoskey Resale Store Opens serving as a funding source for Challenge Mountain programs.
  • 2008
    Partnership with Spirit Day Camp begins and summer recreational activities and social outings are incorporated into year-round programming.
  • 2010
    Challenge sailboat is christened for adaptive sailing program.
  • 2013
    First professional Program Director hired and Challenge Mountain expands year-round programming to include biking, kayaking, equine therapy and ropes challenge course activities.
  • 2015
    Challenge Mountain celebrates 30 years!
  • 2016
    New Boyne City Resale Store opened.

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