Hal O'Leary - Adaptive skiing pioneer

Passing Date

Hal O’Leary, a pioneer in promoting recreational activities for people with disabilities, and one of the founders of The National Sports Center for the Disabled, died in June at Denver Hospice at the age of 94.

Born in Montreal, O’Leary earned a business degree from the University of Montreal, while working at Goose Bay, Labrador, a Canadian Air Force Base. He immigrated to the United States in 1949 and lived in New York City and Denver before moving to Winter Park to teach skiing.

In 1970, O’Leary volunteered to teach 23 young amputees from Children’s Hospital in Denver. Given a week to prepare, he skied on one leg to understand the challenges ahead for his students. Later that year, he helped establish The National Sports Center for The Disabled (NSCD). Since its launch, the NSCD has introduced thousands of disabled children to the sport.

In 1992, SKI Magazine named O’Leary “One of The 100 Best Things That Ever Happened to Skiing.” O’Leary coached the U.S. Disabled Olympic Team, wrote extensively on adaptive skiing, and traveled the world teaching and promoting programs for disabled skiers and riders. He is a member of the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.