By Tyler Allen Explore Big Sky Associate Editor
BIG SKY – Derek Goodridge first fly fished in Montana four months after being injured in
Afghanistan by an Improvised Explosive Device in February 2011. The retired Marine Corp
Sergeant says he still talks weekly with his guide and photographer from the organization
Warriors and Quiet Waters, which brought Goodridge to Montana.
“It helped me get my head back on a swivel,” Goodridge, 25, said of the six-day program. “It
made me realize there are still things out there I can do with one arm.”
WQW for seven years has brought wounded soldiers to southwest Montana to experience the
therapeutic nature of fly fishing on the area’s blue ribbon rivers.
This winter, Goodridge, from Minneapolis, Minn., will join six other wounded military personnel
– both active and retired – from Feb. 10-15 for the organization’s inaugural ski and snowboard
program. Veterans of the war in Afghanistan, the participants all suffer from Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder, and all but one have traumatic brain injuries as a result of injuries sustained
“We’ve been working with [these particular warriors] for over a year,” said Team Leader
Lawrence Stuemke, a WQW volunteer who designed the ski program. “The biggest issue they
have is social anxiety. It’s very common for them to isolate themselves, and being around
people is very challenging for them.”
The week spent skiing and enjoying the winter environment is intended to give the participants a
break from the rigors of recovery, Stuemke said, and perhaps augment their healing process.
After arriving Monday morning, the group will get outfitted with the necessary gear and clothing
from Chalet Sports in Bozeman, including jackets donated by The North Face. They’ll be able
to keep all the gear when the program is over – just as the participants of the summer program
keep their fishing gear.
They’ll spend their nights at Big River Lodge on the Gallatin River, beneath the towering
limestone cliffs near the mouth of Gallatin Canyon and will take lessons at Big Sky Resort
Tuesday morning and then freeski that afternoon, Thursday and Friday.
The warriors will take a snowcoach into Yellowstone National Park on Wednesday with
Yellowstone Alpen Guides, visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone,
and finish the day with a sleigh-ride dinner hosted by Cache Creek Outfitters in Gallatin Canyon.
Bozeman native Marine Corp. Col. Eric Hastings, an air support pilot in the Vietnam war, started
WQW in 2007, “To provide traumatically injured U.S. servicemen and women from Iraq and
Afghanistan with a high quality restorative program, utilizing the therapeutic experience of fly
fishing on Montana waters,” according to the organization’s website.
WQW will partner with Eagle Mount Bozeman, which has been working with military personnel
through its EMBLEM (Eagle Mount Bozeman Lasting Experiences for Military) program since
summer 2011, and has assisted adaptive skiers at Big Sky Resort for the last 10 years. This is
the first time the two have collaborated.
“Many of our servicemen and women have come home with PTSD and/or traumatic brain
injuries, which present different considerations which you have to account for,” said Chad
Biggerstaff, Eagle Mount’s Big Sky Program Director. Biggerstaff has learned about some of
these different challenges through his work with the EMBLEM program.
“Hyper vigilance is an issue many veterans deal with, so you have to be aware of the situations
you are putting them into, and always make sure they have an out.”
Big Sky Resort has a history of accommodating retired and active military personnel, and hosts
Military Appreciation Weekends every year in which it offers free skiing and/or lodging specials
for active military members and discounts for their families.
“These men and women are putting their lives on the line,” said Big Sky Resort Public Relations
Manager Sheila Chapman. “Our resort wants to give back to show appreciation for what they do
for our country.”
The resort is hosting WQW for the week and Chapman noted the resort offers active and
retired military personnel the early rate on its Sky Card throughout the season.
Big Sky Resort will provide the group sack lunches, as well as a quiet “warrior room” in the
mountain village, where the participants will be able to hang out, get dressed, and have snacks
and hot drinks, Stuemke said.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” Goodridge told EBS from Minneapolis on Feb. 3. “My bags
are already packed.”