National Ability Center’s New Home on the Hill

It certainly catches the eye more than the old double wide did. The McGrath Mountain Center, the new on-mountain home of the National Ability Center (NAC) at the base of Park City Mountain, isn’t just roughly five times the size of the organization’s prior operations facility consisting of a mobile trailer and a couple of sheds. It’s a stunning, modern facility befitting the essential work the NAC does.

For nearly four decades the non-profit NAC has fostered a safe and inclusive environment for people with disabilities through adaptive recreation. The organization, initially known as the Park City Handicapped Sports Association (PCHSA), was started in 1985 by Meeche White and Pete Badewitz, a Vietnam Veteran, out of their home. A grant from the Disabled American Veterans of Utah funded ski lessons for veterans at the base of Park City Mountain. 

From those humble beginnings, the National Ability Center has continued to grow and develop into a leading organization in adaptive recreation. And what started as an idea out of White’s and Badewitz’s home has grown into a comprehensive campus on a 26-acre ranch in Round Valley—which includes an equestrian center, ropes courses, an indoor hub with a climbing wall and an on-site lodge for visiting participants—that’s now joined by a state-of-the-art facility at the base of Park City Mountain at the very site of the first ski lessons the organization taught in 1985.

McGrath Mountain Center

The National Ability Center’s adaptive ski bike program is one of the activities based at the new McGrath Mountain Center. Photo Credit SLUG MAGazine

“This is a dream come true,” says Tracey Meier, Chief Program and Education Officer at the NAC. “Our new McGrath Mountain Center is a 9,400-square-foot, fully ADA-accessible facility situated at our home resort of Park City Mountain. Through this new center, we offer world-class adaptive skiing and snowboarding, providing individualized experiences for people with disabilities.”

Park City Mountain donated the land for the McGrath Mountain Center, and Laurie McGrath, an NAC Board Member, donated a significant portion of the funds that made the project possible. As monumental as the new facility is, the opportunities it affords are more of an extension of what the NAC has been doing all along, albeit with a fair bit more comfort and space.  

Some 80 adaptive ski instructors have been working out of the new facility this winter. Undoubtedly it’s an upgrade over the crowded confines of the nearby trailer, which managed, through the diligent work of staff and endless enthusiasm of participants, to serve as the base for countless incredible experiences for adaptive skiers and snowboarders over the years. The NAC served more than 5,400 people last year, and the number should only grow as opportunities abound both in snowsports and with year-round seasonal activities and events.  

 “The inclusive approach at the McGrath Mountain Center goes beyond just skiing,” Meier says. “It encompasses a broad spectrum of activities such as adaptive mountain biking, hiking, and day camps, ensuring a holistic adventure for individuals, families, and groups. Serving all ages and all populations, we have the people, equipment, and program to provide each person with a memorable experience!”

McGrath Mountain Center

“After seven years of planning, I am thrilled to celebrate this joyous occasion with the community.”

—Meeche White, Co-founder of NAC
Photo Credit Adam Finkle

The opening of the McGrath Mountain Center is a crowning moment, especially for the people at the NAC who’ve never lost sight of its critical mission. “Having a new mountain center completes my original vision for the evolution of our facilities,” said NAC co-founder Meeche White at the center’s unveiling last October. “After seven years of planning, I am thrilled to celebrate this joyous occasion with the community.” 

And in the longer term, the facility is a monument to the Park City community’s commitment to the NAC and the work it does. Without the critical support of partners like Vail Resorts, Park City Mountain, and the town itself, such a project wouldn’t be possible. The mountains are for everyone, and the new McGrath Mountain Center is a reminder of Park City’s support of that vision for decades to come.

Tony Gill
Tony Gill
Tony Gill is the outdoor and Park City editor for Salt Lake Magazine and previously toiled as editor-in-chief of Telemark Skier Magazine. Most of his time ignoring emails is spent aboard an under-geared single-speed on the trails above his home.

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