Sarah Will

Year Inducted: 2009

Growing up in Vermont, Sarah Will loved skiing. She didn't lose that love when a 1988 powder skiing accident in Aspen left her paralyzed from the waist down. In fact, it kindled her passion even further as she became a hero and ambassador for adaptive skiing, becoming the most decorated athlete in U.S. Ski Team history with 13 Paralympic medals (12 Gold), including a sweep of every event at the 2002 Paralympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Will took her passion for skiing into racing as a youngster at Pico and later on the Green Mountain College ski team. Skiing was in her blood and she moved to Aspen to become a ski bum and live her dream.

On a beautiful ski day at Aspen Highlands in December, 1988, she suffered a fluke accident that changed her life. She caught some powder crossing a cat track, crashing hard and breaking her back. During her rehabilitation, she read about adaptive skiing in a book by the noted Hall O'Leary from the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park.

Within a year she was on a monoski, training in Winter Park. And, in 1992. as a young member of the then U.S. Disabled Ski Team, she stunned the world with a gold in downhill and super G at the Paralympic Winter Games in Albertville, France, just three years after her accident!

As a monoskier, Will needed to learn how to maneuver not just her own body weight, but a 50-pound sled with one ski, all the time achieving speeds comparable to racing downhill on two skis! Will and her teammates, developed their own technology. It was a new sport at that level and Will was among its most important early pioneers.

She once said: "It's not a disability, it's an ability. You can go out and do anything you want to do, but you have to be the one that makes that decision. You can learn a lot from other people, but you just have to go out there and do it yourself."

Will has spent her entire career helping others. She moved to Vail in the mid-'90s, founding a monoski program to introduce and motivate other aspiring athletes. She continued her star-studded career into four Paralympic Winter Games, serving as a leader among some of the greatest athletes of all time on the U.S. Ski Team. Her fierceness as a competitor and her willingness to spend time as an advocate for her sport, won her fans and converted others to see that it wasn't about disability, it was about ability.

She retired after sweeping four golds in Salt Lake City. But she continued her advocacy and outreach, teaching others through Vail's adaptive ski program. She was recognized in 2004 with induction in the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, and was nominated in 2009 for consideration for the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.


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