Key People: Lydia North of the BOEC

Posted October 2, 2023

Making the Outdoors Accessible

Each season, Keystone Resort partners with the Keystone Adaptive Center, a program of the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) to provide skiing and snowboarding lessons for individuals with a diverse range of disabilities.

BOEC views skiing and snowboarding as sports that can – and should – be enjoyed by everyone, from first-time beginners to experts. We sat down with Lydia North, Operations Manager for the BOEC, to learn more about her work and the BOEC’s partnership with Keystone Resort.


Lydia North Personnel Photo

Thanks for sitting down with us, Lydia! Can you share a little bit about your role at the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC)?

Sure thing! I’m Lydia North, Operations Manager for the BOEC. I play a big part in both our winter and summer programming to ensure that each of our programs has what they need, be it equipment, logistical planning, or overall direction. My goal is to make sure our programs operate smoothly and can grow and develop based on the evolving needs of our participants and new opportunities that arise.

So, let’s back up for a second, what exactly is the BOEC?

BOEC stands for the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center. Our mission is to expand the potential of people with disabilities and special needs through meaningful, educational, and inspiring outdoor experiences.

We do this in a few different ways. In the winter, we offer adaptive skiing and snowboarding experiences. In the summer, our wilderness programming includes rock climbing, rafting, cycling, hiking, camping and more. Groups will come to us with participants that have specific needs and a desire to embark on different outdoor activities, and then we partner with them to bring those adventures to life.

Can you talk a little bit about what drew you to this work?

The BOEC really encompasses what I discovered as my two passions in this world: Being physically active in the outdoors and working with people with disabilities.

In college, I had the opportunity to work as a caregiver for someone with a traumatic brain injury, and just fell in love with that work, so I decided to make it my career path. Outdoor sports play a huge role in my life and have made a big impact on my mental health and wellbeing.  When I found this program, I saw that this work could perfectly draw those two passions together.

It is so critical to have access to the outdoors, not just for one particular activity, but year-round. So many social experiences are based around what you can do outside, and this is especially true in Colorado where outdoor experiences are the bedrock of community life.

Wow, so it really sounds like what you’re providing is more than just access to activities, but a sense of community?

Exactly! My favorite part of my work is seeing a group come together and, through outdoor experiences, grow together. So often, our participants enter a space as total strangers and exit the space as a new family. It’s such a privilege to get to see that transition.

When you’re in an outdoor space, tackling the unique challenges of an outdoor environment, growing together and achieving new things together - it adds a whole new element to the community-building experience. It builds a deeper connection.

Can you talk a little bit about what your partnership with Keystone Resort looks like?

BOEC couldn’t exist without partners like Keystone and Vail Resorts. Keystone donates space in the Mountain House base area so that we can operate the Keystone Adaptive Center and provide ski and ride lessons for guests with disabilities. In the summer months this space is dedicated to the BOEC’s Adaptive Cycling Program providing a diverse range of cycles for all abilities.  We also receive lift tickets and rentals through our partnership with Vail Resorts, which allows us to keep our prices low and to reach more participants and expand access even further.

What difference does it make to have a brick-and-mortar location right here in Keystone?

It’s huge. This location is so critical because we have approachable learning terrain right here off the Peru and Discovery lifts. In the summer, we’re still able to use this space for our adaptive cycling programs. A lot of our students come to our cycling program in the summer and then return in the winter, and vice versa. It’s really cool to see them develop a connection with the space throughout the year and get to see how the area evolves throughout the season. It goes without saying that this place looks incredibly different in the summer than it does in the winter.

When you look back on your work so far, are there any stories that stand out to you?

I love working with every participant and couldn’t say I have favorites, but there is one individual that comes to mind with that question. There is a young girl whom I’ve skied with a few times each season. She skis in a sit-down bi-ski, so she’s attached to me as we go down the mountain together. She suffers from seizures quite often, but when we ski together, she becomes so relaxed that she often falls asleep. Initially, I was a little concerned about whether that meant she was having fun. But I realized after a short time that cruising down the mountain, for her, was therapeutic. It was her chance to fully relax. She’s a great example of the fact that everyone’s relationship to the sport looks a little different and that we all take something different away from our time on snow.

That’s amazing. Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work?

I just want to re-emphasize the importance of accessibility.

Skiing and snowboarding are sports that we can do for a lifetime, and it is so important to not exclude people with different abilities. Sliding on snow in any capacity is something that brings us all joy-whether you’re ripping black diamonds or not, and being able to give that kind of access is incredibly important. These activities go such a long way in instilling confidence and giving families a collective experience that they can bond over. A participant may face any number of challenges in their day-to-day lives – they may be nonverbal or only able to participate in select activities at home or school – but when they’re ripping down the mountain… that changes everything.

Thank you, Lydia, for sharing your experience with us, and for all that the BOEC does to make outdoor recreation accessible!

To learn more about the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center and its adaptive outdoor recreation programs, visit their website at