Helping Scouts and vets navigate the slopes

Apr 5, 2023 | Front Page

Scout Joshua Miller (right) with Jack Cooperman, the RSA coordinator, and instructor Tammy Donarummo (center).


(Photos by Rhea-Frances Tetley)

Sixteen Scouts from Moreno Valley Boy Scout Troop 111 recently came to Snow Valley to earn their Snow Sports merit badge. Snow Valley’s instructors helped the boys, many of whom hadn’t skied before, learn the basics of skiing or snowboarding. After demonstrating their skills, the Scouts were signed off to earn the merit badge.

Scout leaders were very supportive and learned more about skiing while there, as well. Troop 111 also has three very active girls in the troop.

One of their scouts, 15-year-old Joshua Miller, is an amputee, having lost one of his legs, and wears a prosthetic leg. He got a private lesson from specially trained instructor Tammy Donarummo, under coordination from the Rim Special Athletes (RSA) program at Snow Valley.

Donarummo is trained on helping those with different needs to be a successful skier. After a two-hour lesson, Joshua had the basic skills needed to earn the merit badge, including how to do right and left turns and a wedge and successfully getting both legs to coordinate together for a fun skiing experience.

Joshua, who is a ninth-grade student at Canyon Springs High School in Moreno Valley, finished the day with a great big smile on his face due to the successes he felt and the people he’d met while on the slopes.

“I had an awesome day,” he said. His mother, Danette Miller, agreed this day was one that will continue to motivate Joshua for a long time. Joshua is very focused and was a former Shrine Ambassador for five years for Shriner’s Hospital.

The disabled veterans from San Diego missed several ski trips in March due to the closed roads and raging storms.

The disabled veterans from San Diego missed several ski trips in March due to the closed roads and raging storms.

The Scouts were at Snow Valley on the same day as disabled veterans from San Diego, which created an excellent opportunity for Joshua to meet the veterans, and it was not by accident. This opportunity was planned for Joshua by RSA Coordinator Jack Cooperman to meet several veterans with prosthetic legs, inside the RSA ski office, leading to inspiring interactions between them. Joshua wants to become a member of the National Guard when he grows up and is enrolled in ROTC at school.

One of the men Joshua met that day has two prosthetic legs as a result of a birth defect and he loves to snowboard. His impact on Joshua was very inspiring, as he encouraged Joshua to go for his dreams and work for his goals. They also discussed the struggle of getting stiff ski boots onto and off a prosthetic foot, finding they had much in common, despite a difference in age.

Joshua Miller was all smiles after working with instructor Tammy Donarummo and earning his Snow Sports merit badge.

Joshua Miller was all smiles after working with instructor Tammy Donarummo and earning his Snow Sports merit badge.

Although their interaction was short in duration, it was impactful as it encouraged Joshua to continue to challenge himself and work to reach his stated goal to become an Eagle Scout and to not allow his amputation and prosthetic leg become an excuse for not achieving all he desires to accomplish.

The Rim Special Athletes Foundation has been offering disabled veterans and others with prosthetics and even the blind the opportunity to learn how to ski. This day, the vets arrived and skied through an RSA-coordinated ski therapy program offered by the San Diego Veteran’s Recreational Program that comes to Snow Valley, under the direction of Heather Cargill. One of their veterans, Jake, was learning to operate a mono-ski controlled with riggers held in his hand like ski poles. He said it was quite wonderful to be able to go out on the slopes and again experience the thrill of skiing. This was his second trip with the vets to Snow Valley and he went up to the mountaintop to ski down. It takes great upper body strength to independently operate riggers that maneuver the mono-ski that is supplied by RSA at no additional charge to those athletes needing them, but they must be reserved in advance.

RSA enables almost anyone with a disability who has the desire to ski, and RSA has the equipment to do so. They have mono- and bi-ski units that can be operated by those who cannot stand up and specially trained instructors who can teach the skills necessary to overcome physical or mental obstacles that may make skiing more challenging, but rarely impossible.

Snow Valley is the oldest continually operating ski resort in Southern California. This season, it was purchased by the Alterra Mountain Company, which also operates two ski resorts in Big Bear and others nationwide. The new company promises it will continue to deliver excellent skiing experiences for snow enthusiasts. They plan no major changes this season and, with the current snow conditions, they are not sure how long into April or May Snow Valley will be able to operate, as it greatly depends on the weather. However, with the recent storms, it appears it will be operating though at least spring break for most schools.

Snow Valley has 32 trails, over 240 acres, 13 ski lifts, including one six-person high speed lift, six double-chair lifts, five triple-chair lifts and one conveyer. The vertical from the top is 1,041 feet.

For more information, call (909) 867-2751 or visit




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