U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --
The Academy is crosshatched with hiking trails and ribbed with hills bicyclist dreams are made of. It's only a short drive from whitewater rafting, ski slopes and rock climbing. For some, this information is useless, but for many of the outdoor enthusiasts stationed here, it's a dream come true.
For those working at the Academy Outdoor Recreation Center, the area is a prime location.
"I call it the perfect storm here," said 1Chuck Alfultis, the 10th Force Support Squadron Community Services flight chief. "We have the facility and we have the equipment to do the things we need to do. And then, of course, the third and final piece of the puzzle is we're here in Colorado. We have access to anything and everything because of our gorgeous state and the backyard we
Part of "anything and everything" this fall and winter are two- to- three ski trips weekly, mountain biking and newer programs, like moonlight snowshoeing and ice climbing.
Other autumn events include the Volksmarch, a highlight of the fall season for the center, Oct. 11 at Farish Recreation Area.
"It's just an opportunity to bring your family up into the countryside and go for a hike," Alfultis said. "It's a 10k hike through the woods, and hopefully the leaves will be in full color. It's a great opportunity for people who have never been to Farish to get out. We have between 200 and 250 people come to that every year."
While whitewater rafting, the ORC's most popular program, has wound down for the summer, the ORC still has plenty of activities for Airmen and their families.
"Our second biggest program is our downhill mountain biking program," he said, explaining mountain biking can continue well into the winter. "We're one of only three companies that have a permit to bike down from the top of Pikes Peak. So, we drive you to the top, guide you down and we pick you up and bring you home."
The center offers bike rental, merchandise, repairs and repair classes.
"We have a huge bike repair program," Alfultis said. "Several of our staff are certified bike techs here in town. In fact, we have several graduates from a local world-renowned institute to serve your bicycle needs. Out bike techs are top-notch."
With winter closing in, Outdoor Adventure Programmers Casey Graham and Bill Coble have been busy planning events.
"We're actually ramping up our winter program quite a bit," Graham said. "We've got a winter back country cabin trip in March, where you can snowshoe in or hang out in the mountains for a weekend or learn how to back country ski. You can learn avalanche science - all that kind of stuff. We've got an ice climbing trip to Lake City in January for single Airmen and an Ouray Hot Springs and ice climbing trip in March. The hot springs and ice climbing trips are open to all eligible ID card holders - active, retired, Defense Department and Nonappropriated Funds Civilians."
Along with ice climbing and snowshoeing, the center is focusing attention on preparing for ski and snowboard season. The center sells vouchers for season passes to local ski resorts and hills.
"All of the rental staff is certified ski techs," Alfultis said. "They can maintain skis as well as set the bindings. We have over 1,500 sets of skis and over 500 snowboards."
The ORC will rent powder, downhill and cross country skis, as well as car racks for daily and seasonal use, starting Oct. 14.
"People call us in October to make an appointment, and then they come in November and pick up their skis," he said. "Then they keep them until April. And we have daily rentals.
Once you've been fitted for your skis and you're in our system for a daily rental, you can call and reserve them three days in advance and we'll have them ready for you."
Airmen can purchase new or used rental equipment at the Winter Expo, hosted by ORC. The ORC also sells equipment on consignment.
Pat Young, assigned to the 10th FSS, is a frequent user of the ORC services.
"These guys are just awesome," he said. "I'm a snowboarder, and I go every week. So when I come back Monday, I drop my gear off here. I come back Wednesday afternoon and it's ready to roll for that next weekend. And I do this every weekend - 47 days last year. They have all the components - good equipment, great facilities and great people."
The ORC also runs the Single Airman Program Initiative encouraging single Airmen of any rank to participate in outdoor activities.
"I think the initial target is the Airmen in the dorms," Alfultis said. "Get them out of the dorms, get them doing something outside. But it is for any and all unmarried Airmen. We went paragliding up in Vail, we've gone whitewater rafting and they're going on an overnight camping trip this weekend. They've done skydiving, they've done hot air ballooning. It's just an incredible program, there's no excuse not to get out."
Cadets are included in the program, and Alfultis is currently talking to the cadet ski club president about collaborating on a ski trip this winter.
Alfultis believes the ORC is a necessary part of every base, not only because of the opportunities it provides Airmen, but because it allows them to relax.
"Outdoor recreation has been deemed an Air Force core program," he said. "I mean, we're right up there with the youth center, lodging and the dining hall. It's so key (Airmen) get out and recreate and have a good time - blow off some steam and stress and it's just a necessity. And I think the Air Force realizes that. There was a DOD survey a couple years ago and Outdoor Rec was voted the number one main thing that active duty people wanted - that they used the most. Because we touch so many people and because we do such a variety of things."
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