Press Releases & News

Adaptive Ski Program Unites Veterans and Guests for an Unforgettable Winter Experience

1/21/2024 — In a rebirth of its annual program and with generous support from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Adaptive Sports Grant, Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra is bringing together 16 veterans and activity duty personal as well as 9 guests for an exhilarating winter adventure in Mammoth Lakes.   

The unique program gives participants the opportunity to snowboard and ski on the slopes of Mammoth Mountain and the trails of Tamarack. Against the backdrop of stunning snow-covered landscapes, the veterans and guests alike experience the thrill of mountain sports, fostering camaraderie and shared moments. 

To start the week off participants met at the local fire department for appetizers and dinner. The evening finished with acknowledgements made by the fire department to those that served both past and present. 

Operation Mountain Freedom, as the event is called, extends beyond adrenaline-pumping mountain sports to prioritize holistic well-being. A dedicated wellness session is organized in partnership with Elevate Mammoth for each afternoon, providing participants with tools and techniques to enhance their mental and physical health. The session is aimed to promote resilience, stress reduction, and overall wellness for both veterans and guests. 

DSES expresses heartfelt gratitude to all participants, volunteers, and sponsors who made this program possible. Their commitment to supporting our veterans and creating inclusive opportunities for individuals of all abilities in Mammoth Lakes underscores the organization’s dedication to making a positive impact in the community. 

Quote from Executive Director Marisa Gierlich: We are so excited to have these incredible men and women come join these activities that we hold so dear. They have given so much for us, and we are stoked to be able to give something back! 

For media inquiries, please contact: 

Jacob Myhre, Communications and Outreach Specialist, DSES,  


Laura is Leaving DSES

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra announces the upcoming departure of Laura Beardsley, who has served as the organization’s Executive Director since 2020. Laura will transition out of DSES later this year to pursue new opportunities in the Eastern Sierra.  

Laura first joined DSES as a volunteer in 2012, guiding participants in the summer cycling program and teaching adaptive skiing lessons at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. She joined the staff in 2017 as the Deputy Director to help oversee day-to-day operations of the growing organization. A few years later, after the passing of Jack Copeland in 2020, Laura took over for Kathy Copeland as the Executive Director. “I’m honored to have been part of DSES and its work to provide opportunities for adaptive recreation in our communities for the past seven years.” said Laura, “I look forward to seeing the organization grow and engage more people in the future.”  

Laura guided DSES through several significant milestones, including navigating the world under Covid as well as the purchase of Fern Creek Lodge which, as the Jack and Kathy Copeland Center, will become the home of expanded programs serving veterans and service members with disabilities as well as youth and families pursuing adaptive recreation experiences. Over the past few years, the non-profit developed Adaptive Mountain Bike Camps and enhanced programs to support veterans and service members by incorporating wellness and resilience training in their military sports programs. Earlier this year, under Laura’s leadership, the DSES Board and staff crafted a new strategic plan designed to steer the organization, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, towards a sustainable and focused future. 

“I am immensely grateful to Laura for her tenure with DSES. Her leadership and ability to build on Kathy Copeland’s strong legacy has placed us in a positive position for years to come.” Said Steve Mount, LtCol USMC (Ret) and DSES Board of Directors Chair, “As we look towards our bright future, I am excited about current and future programs both at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and the new Copeland Center at Fern Creek Lodge.” 

DSES will begin the search for an Executive Director in the coming months, in the meanwhile the Board is confident that the still-to-be-appointed Interim Executive Director will be equipped for success and able provide strong leadership during this transition period. 

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra 

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra is a nationally recognized adaptive sports program that facilitates year-round adaptive recreation and mountain sports for people of all ages. Based in and around beautiful Mammoth Lakes, CA, we create fun, responsible, active outdoor lessons and experiences by providing high-quality instruction, guides, and equipment. Our services are community-centered and inclusive to people with disabilities as well as their families and friends. Since 2007, DSES has offered innovative programs specifically for military athletes and is currently developing the Jack & Kathy Copeland Center at Fern Creek Lodge to expand these programs as well as inclusive opportunities for families and people of all ages with disabilities.  Visit us at: 


The Snowiest Season on Record

Last week Mammoth Mountain broke it’s record for most amount of recorded snowfall..ever! With 702″ of snow at Main Lodge and over 800″ at the summit, the 22/23 season is now the biggest in our history! Previously, the record had been set at 668″.

“To our employees, to this community, to all of you who have battled the elements this season – YOU are the stuff of legends. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s going to be a legendary spring up here!” – Mammoth Mountain

Visit the Mammoth Mountain Snow & Avalanche page to view the Ski Patrol report for this season!

Thank You, EXTRAVAGANZA Community!

Published by DSES, 17 January 2023

Last month, a massive mid-December storm didn’t stop hundreds of attendees to Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra’s largest and most important fundraiser of the year, the Starry, Starry Night Extravaganza. DSES is overwhelmingly grateful to guests, volunteers, donors, and everyone who made it possible to raise more than $169,000 for year-round adaptive recreation opportunities in the Eastern Sierra!Three individuals have their arms splayed out in happiness as they boogie down on a dance floor with fun, festive lighting all around them.

During this festive, sold-out fundraiser on December 11 at Mammoth Mountain, guests enjoyed a delicious family-style dinner and dancing to live music from band Afterparty. In addition to the traditional “wine grab”, virtual silent auction, and raffle (run by the Mammoth Lakes Robotics team!), everyone was entertained by a vibrant live auction with auctioneer Keith McLane, and poignant stories from speakers Phil Hashem (@QuadOnABike), DSES Board Chair Steve Mount, Executive Director Laura Beardsley, and Board Member and retired Founding Director Kathy Copeland.

Special thanks to the Starry, Starry Night Extravaganza premier event sponsors: Rainbow Sandals Foundation, Howard and Renee Durlester – Durlester Investment Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, Frome Investments, Kathy Copeland, Neil Sherman – Industrial Metal Supply, and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.

DSES would also like to thank the following generous donors and volunteers for making the Extravaganza so incredibly successful:

Aerohead Cycles of Bishop, Peter Albert, Alpen Veterinary Hospital, Amy and Steve Ambellan, Aloha Steakhouse, Simone Ardouin, ASO – Adventure Sports Outpost, Maureen Baker, Lindsay Barksdale Birrell, Blazing Shears Salon, Catherine Bong, Ingrid and Michael Braun, Christine Bubser, Chris and Erin Bulkley, Bob and Liz Burke, Jennifer and Craig Burrows, Dr. Ronaye Calvert – LIVE Treatment, Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute (CIMWI), Jim Cox – J. Cavanaugh Inc., Jon Crowley – Mammoth Mountaineering Supply, Daria Buonassisi and Tony de Paolo, Judy DeSalvo, Dessert’d, Dre Dillon – Shift Physical Therapy, Dave Easterby – State Farm, Snowcreek Athletic Club, Cynthia Eppolito, Carolyn and Ed Escoto, Emily Estremo, Cynthia Fleming, Yvonne Flores, Ann-Marie Flowers, Footloose Sports, Tracey Ford, Jeff Frome, Dave Geirman, Alix Ginter, Good Life Café, Heidi Goodwin, Scotty Haines, Darren Hall, Marji Hall, Lauren Hanna, Alisa and Paul Harper – Warming Hut, Don Harrell, Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Resort, Hobie Surf Shop, Andy Holzer – A-Frame Wines & Spirits, Doug Hornbeck, Lesley-Anne Hoxie, Harv Humphrey, Ed & Kathy Hurley – Burgers Restaurant, Mike Ishikawa, Island Packers, Italian Pottery Outlet, Marci Jefferson, Mark Jobe, Jane Johnson, Sara Jones – Rancho Potrero Trail Rides/Ride On, Deena Kastor, Marc Kayem, Jamie Kelly, Brian Kirschmenmann, Steve Klaussen – Wave Rave, Jacqui Knudsen, Taylor Kumlue – Noodle-ly, Katherine Landau, Dawn Lazar, Juliette Lee, Robin Lee, Benjamin Leeds, Cara and Dave Leonard – Booky Joint, Chris Leonard, Randee and Neal Levin, Mike Licari, Little Bohemian, Mammoth Chiropractic, Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, Mammoth Tavern, Paul Martin, Michelle Mather, Cody Mathison, Kevin Maxwell, Renee and Ryder McCormack – Mountain Maven Concierge, Minaret Cinemas, Kathy and Bert Moon, Kim Montgomery Home, Kathy Moon, Gary Morgan, Jenny Morris – Profiles Salon, Stephen and Stephanie Mount, Connie and Roy Moyer, Jackie Myers, Jake Myhre, Sarah and Tarek Nuttall, Blazing Shears Salon, Stephan Olson, Sean Orlowicz, Our Water Works Carwash, Marion and Martin Owen – Cliff House Bed & Breakfast, Jessica Owens, Patagonia, Allison Page, Cherne, Harrell, and Parisky – Mammoth Radiology Associates, James D Patch, Dan Peterson, Andrea and Tony Pighetti, Josh Pighetti, Stacey Powells, JoAnn Reilly, Andrea Ramras, Elizabeth Root, Biliana Rotse, Madeline Roy, Arash Sayadi, Joanie & Dan Schaller – Roberto’s, Kirk Schaubmayer- Petra’s, Stacy Schaubmayer, Mastro Scheidt Cellars, Thomas Schemenauer, David Shapiro, Tracie and Steve Shatkin – Mammoth Coffee Roasting Co., Kristen Shellberg, Ed Shinto – Verizon of Mammoth Lakes, Alasdair Simonds, Skadi, Jim Sloan, EL Smoogen, Tailwaggers Pet Store, Kathleen Taylor, Tim’s Snow Removal, Brendan Steinman, Laurel Szeto, Becky Takayesu, Phil and Liz Tanton, Têra Kaia Bishop, Vesa Tontti, Betsy and Brent Truax, John Urdi, Aly Vanko – Profiles Salon, Faye Wachs, Andrea Walker – Stellar Brew, June Lake Brewing, Eric Wasserman, Graphic Conclusion, Bill Wischmeyer, and Cheryl and Rick Wood.

This event was just one of the many necessary ways DSES raises funds to support its mission to provide opportunities for accessible recreation throughout the Eastern Sierra. Financial support provides personalized instruction, state-of-the-art equipment, scholarships, and resources to give children and adults with disabilities the opportunity to participate in outdoor recreation and adaptive sports like downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, road cycling, paddling, kayaking, and more.

As we enter 2023, DSES is in the midst of exciting new phases for the organization. The historic Fern Creek Lodge in June Lake was purchased in 2021 with guidance from the DSES Board of Directors, and extensive renovations for accessibility and programs have been underway since early last year. The facility will be used as the home of a major expansion of DSES’s programs for military and veteran athletes and will provide retreat-style adaptive sports programs year-round. The facility has been renamed the Jack & Kathy Copeland Center at Fern Creek Lodge, a name chosen by champions of the campaign, Ruth and Roger MacFarlane, to honor Kathy and Jack’s remarkable impact on the community and the many individuals who have benefitted from DSES programs.

 Support provided through fundraisers like Extravaganza as well as expansion to the new Copeland Center helps DSES engage people of all ages in exciting adaptive recreation in the Eastern Sierra. Last summer, one participant in an adaptive mountain bike camp commented, “I’m not kidding, this was two of the best days of my life.”

It takes an entire community to provide accessible recreation opportunities, and DSES would love for you to be involved. Tell your friends about DSES programs, make a donation, or become a volunteer! DSES is also hiring for a number of exciting open positions – all of this and more can be discovered on the DSES website at or stop by our office below the Panorama Gondola at Main Lodge and say hello.

In Loving Memory of Carlynn

In loving memory of Carlynn Dutton. There are simply no words to express how much we will miss Carlynn, who has been an active volunteer and vital friend to participants with DSES for many years. Her obituary and more photos are available at:
Rest in peace, Carlynn ♥

Summer Thrills During the 2022 Advanced Adaptive Mountain Bike Camp

“The shred of a lifetime 🙌 I’m not kidding, this was two of the best days of my life. Mammoth Mountain was unbelievable.” – Phil

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra Announces Acquisition of Fern Creek Lodge, June Lake, CA

Historic resort to be renovated into retreat for adaptive military and sports programs.

Laura Beardsley (DSES Executive Director) Jon Coats (Former Fern Creek Lodge Owner) , and Kathy Copeland (DSES Founding Director) celebrate in front of the sign at Fern Creek Lodge in June Lake.

June Lake, CA – November 30, 2021

The Board of Directors of Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES) are proud to announce the acquisition of the Fern Creek Lodge in June Lake, California. The facility will be used as the home of a major expansion of DSES’s programs for military and veteran athletes, and will provide retreat-style adaptive sports programs year-round. After many years fundraising to create a National Wounded Warrior Center in Mammoth Lakes, the Board of Directors approved the purchase of Fern Creek Lodge in order to serve veterans with disabilities as they pursue thriving civilian lives.

The DSES capital campaign initiative for the National Wounded Warrior Center will come to fruition with the purchase of Fern Creek Lodge, however the name of the facility will change. The Center will be formally renamed the Jack & Kathy Copeland Center at Fern Creek Lodge. The name was selected by champions of the campaign, Ruth and Roger MacFarlane, who motivated a major donation from the Tambour Foundation. Roger MacFarlane stated, “The Tambour Foundation is proud to support Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra. Kathy Copeland has founded and created an organization of remarkable impact for so many people and the benefits are clearly demonstrated. As the organization grows and seeks to increase its capacity for servicemembers, it is exhilarating to be able to support their impact at such a crucial time.”

In the fall of 2020, DSES began searching for a new home for the facility after the original land from the nonprofit Mammoth Lakes Foundation was no longer available. After months of comparing land, facilities, and different locations in the Eastern Sierra, the organization is thrilled to acquire Fern Creek Lodge and begin the next phase of enhancing their commitment to veterans with disabilities as well as adaptive programming for people of all ages and backgrounds with disabilities. DSES will remain based at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and actively engaged in the greater Mammoth Lakes community, where opportunities for skiing, riding, mountain biking, and more will continue.

Fern Creek Lodge has a unique history and strong sense of place with a charming feel and natural setting, a seasonal creek, and open space backing up to US Forest Service land. The campus will provide eight independent cabins with multiple rooms and beds, a central lodge building, and an outdoor gathering place nestled among aspens with stunning views of Carson Peak and the Sierra Nevada. The retreat-style buildings and stunning environment provide the perfect location to offer a mix of programs and support a variety of individuals with disabilities and their families. All programming will include therapeutic outdoor recreation, and some programs will incorporate topics like education and vocational programs, wellness, and housing assistance.

A period of renovation for enhanced accessibility of the historic site will begin this winter and is expected to take less than a year to complete. The existing structures will provide flexibility with multiple cabin layouts with kitchens, gathering space, access to summer program areas, June Lake community amenities, and on-site storage. The organization expects to launch the first programs at the site in Summer 2022.

DSES Executive Director, Laura Beardsley, stated, “With the decision to move forward with the purchase of Fern Creek Lodge, Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra committed to greatly expanding our physical assets as well as programing to support military service members and veterans with disabilities. This expansion affects all aspects of the organization and shifts the past years of fundraising for a National Wounded Warrior Center into a new phase which will include renovation of Fern Creek Lodge as a cross-functional facility and the base of expanded of military-focused programs.”

Founding Director, Kathy Copeland, stated, “I am humbled by the ecstatic support of donors, which was crucial in making this facility a reality for the individuals we support in their journey to learn, heal, and thrive with their new lives. Thank you to everyone who was part of this – from the bottom of my heart – for your generosity and determination. Our servicemen and women are heroes and the price they pay is great. We are here to support them!”

If you would like to be part of this exciting endeavor, please stay tuned for additional information, which will be broadcast through the organization’s website, social media channels, and email platform.


Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra, is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization providing adaptive sports and outdoor recreation experiences for children and adults with cognitive and physical disabilities. Based in Mammoth Lakes, CA, DSES strives to create exciting challenges, provide expert instruction, and rally the community to comfortably accommodate people with disabilities.  

In 2007, DSES launched its first programs designed specifically for veterans and servicemembers with disabilities. DSES programs are designed to be inclusive, supporting both active duty and veteran service members of any age, from any branch of service, with any illness or injury, combat-related or not. DSES is not affiliated with the Wounded Warrior Project, which is a different organization entirely. With the purchase of the Fern Creek Lodge, DSES will help countless others learn, heal, and thrive.

To learn more about Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra, visit

Media contact: Katie Johnson,

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra Announces Leadership Evolution

Copeland will focus on veterans’ initiatives as Beardsley takes helm of local organization
Two women wearing masks celebrate with flutes. The woman on the right is giving a thumbs up sign

Laura and Kathy celebrate their leadership evolution for DSES

Mammoth Lakes, CA – October 6, 2020 – The Board of Directors of Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES) is proud to announce key leadership changes within the organization. This fall, Laura Beardsley will step into the role of Executive Director following several years with DSES. Kathy Copeland will assume the position of Founding Director, focusing on the campaign to build the National Wounded Warrior Center (NWWC) and programs serving wounded warriors and veterans with disabilities.

Beardsley has served as the organization’s Deputy Director for nearly four years, after originally becoming involved as a volunteer in 2012 when she moved to the Eastern Sierra. She brings more than twenty years’ experience in nonprofit fundraising, program development, leadership, and administration to her new position.

After serving as Executive Director for 17 years, Copeland is happy and grateful to be handing over the reins of the organization she founded in 2001. “It’s time to acknowledge the strength, passion, and commitment that Laura brings to DSES” says Copeland. “I’m extremely proud and thrilled for her to be guiding DSES into the future.”

“I love DSES and our work to support adaptive athletes at Mammoth Mountain and throughout the region. I’m honored to have the opportunity to build on Kathy’s vision and support our incredible community in this way.” Beardsley said.

As Founding Director, Copeland will remain an integral part of DSES focusing her work on initiatives to support military athletes and veterans with disabilities including the National Wounded Warrior Center. With more than $11.7 million committed to the initiative to date, the capital campaign is nearly complete, and DSES expects to make Copeland’s vision a reality in the coming year. “Our military men and women make exceptional sacrifices, and many come home with unique challenges, both visible and invisible. DSES and the Eastern Sierra have an amazing opportunity to help these wounded warriors learn, heal, and thrive.”


Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra, is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization providing adaptive sports and outdoor recreation experiences for children and adults with cognitive and physical disabilities. Based in Mammoth Lakes, CA, DSES strives to create exciting challenges, provide expert instruction, and rally the community to comfortably accommodate people with disabilities. 

In 2007, DSES launched its first wounded warrior programs designed specifically for veterans and servicemembers with disabilities. With the launch of their National Wounded Warrior Center initiative, they hope to help countless others learn, heal, and thrive. To learn more about Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra, visit

Media contact: Laura Beardsley, Executive Director, Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra,, 760.934.0791

­­National Wounded Warrior Center Searching for New Home

Athlete riding a recumbent handcycle flexes both arms in celebration of strength

David and Juice cycling during DSES’s Operation High Altitude. (Photo: DSES Collection)

Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra committed to providing facility to support veterans with disabilities

Mammoth Lakes, California – September 9, 2020 – Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES) has announced that it will find a new location for its planned National Wounded Warrior Center. With contributions and commitments of $11.7 million, DSES has made tremendous progress in securing support to create a National Wounded Warrior Center in Mammoth Lakes. The new facility will offer veterans with disabilities the resources and knowledge they need to return to civilian life with confidence, hope, and skills to find successful employment and build strong families. While the project, originally planned for construction on Mammoth Lakes Foundation land near Cerro Coso Community College, finds itself in search of a new location, DSES embraces the change of plans as an opportunity to enhance its vision for the Center.

“Of course we are disappointed by the news that the MLF land is no longer available to us,” says DSES Executive Director Kathy Copeland, “especially as this sort of facility and expanded programming is needed now more than ever. We are reaching out to our generous donors and partners to inform them of this change, and our largest donor has recommitted their support and encouragement to create the Center. This is an opportunity to align the facility and programs with another location to help our heroes thrive.”

In a decision announced last Friday, the Mammoth Lakes Foundation applauded the outstanding programming offered by DSES and praised the “honorable merit” of the proposed National Wounded Warrior Center, but ultimately determined they would not provide the land for the project.

DSES appreciates the support of its donors and the Mammoth Lakes community for the proposed facility and stresses that addressing the needs of wounded warriors and veterans with disabilities has been, and remains, a top priority for the organization. Over time, veterans’ needs have shifted, requiring more programs to help overcome conditions such as PTS and depression. Prior to Covid-19, DSES planned to expand its current military sports programs by offering new one-week programs that were slated to begin this fall. The organization now hopes to be able to start the new programs early next year and will continue spearheading plans for the National Wounded Warrior Center.

“Internally, we are assessing opportunities to enhance the vision of the National Wounded Warrior Center in a new location,” says Copeland. “We welcome community input and ideas as we forge ahead.”

Media contact: Laura Beardsley, Deputy Director, Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra,, 760.934.0791

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