Celebrating 40 Years of Adaptive Recreation

Every Achievement is a Milestone:

Challenge Mountain Celebrates 40 Years of Adaptive Recreation for Children & Adults with Disabilities

The winter of 2024 marks the 40th anniversary of Challenge Mountain, a non-profit organization that provides adaptive recreational opportunities, cultural programs and social events for people living with cognitive, physical and mental disabilities.

“We are proud of where we’ve come, and even more excited about our future,” shares Elizabeth Gertz, Challenge Mountain Executive Director. “Every achievement is a milestone, both for our organization and for our amazing participants.”

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 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 Kircher, encouraged by his wife Lois, donated Walloon Hills Ski Area to Challenge Mountain and Darla’s dream became a reality. This was just the beginning to what has grown into year-round adaptive recreational programs and opportunities for people 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 fulfillment of every person. “For many of us, the activities we enjoy are easily accessible,” explains Gertz. “This is not the case for children and adults living with disabilities.” In rural northern Michigan, these opportunities are even more limited.

“With support from individual and corporate donors, foundations, and supporters like Boyne Mountain Resort with the recent 75-hour Mountain Challenge, Challenge Mountain will continue to provide adaptive recreational programs year-round — from adaptive skiing to kayaking, from adaptive biking to dance – for years to come,” Gertz adds. “And, all programs are provided to participants at little or no cost, because we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to experience outdoor recreation, cultural programs and social activities.”

Learn more about Challenge Mountain at challengemtn.org or by calling 231.582.1186.

Looking Back…A Collage of Memories








Challenge Mountain is a non-profit 501c3 organization with Tax ID 38-2563815.

Started in 1984, Challenge Mountain removes barriers and supports social inclusion through adaptive recreation for children, youth and adults living with physical and cognitive disabilities. Activities include adaptive skiing and biking, nature and cultural activities, art programs, equine therapy and numerous other life-enriching programs.