The Adventure Sports Center International (ASCI) was first envisioned following the 1989 Whitewater Slalom World Championships on the Savage River. Organizers from the Worlds, led by Don Storck, were encouraged by the then president of the ICF (International Canoe Federation, the world governing body for all paddle sports) Sergi Orsi to build upon the world class outdoor resources of Garrett County and the Allegheny mountains, and to make ‘adventure sports’ part of the region’s overall cultural and economic future. The sheer remoteness of whitewater in Garrett County made hosting events (like the Worlds) almost prohibitive: a solution was found in building an artificial, recirculating whitewater course. Thus ASCI was born, and its vision expanded to include programming in other adventure sports (climbing, trail running, mountain biking, etc...).
Even before developing ASCI, the founders sought to institutionalize adventure sports in Garrett County. This was done by creating Garrett College’s Adventure Sports Institute, the country’s first undergraduate program in adventure sports recreation management. The Adventure Sports Institute is now 15 years old, enrolls dozens of students, and has graduated students who have gone on to be leaders in the adventure sports industry. The vision was also to develop local talent that could easily segue into work with ASCI.
The early vision of an artificial course was modest, but over time it was seen as essential to invent a whitewater course that could ‘vary’ the water according to different skill levels and interests. Thus the proprietary ‘wave-shapers’ were born. ASCI will be the only course in the world with this patented technology.
ASCI’s planners also sought to create a destination that would celebrate the splendor of Garrett County’s natural resources. Locating on top of a mountain (since artificial courses can be located anywhere) turned out to be an ideal site: the ambience and beauty of the mountain top make for a truly unique experience in whitewater paddling. The mountain-top also yielded the whitewater course’s signature appearance: boulders dug up during excavation yielded enough hard material to design and build a course that appears and feels natural. Finally, synergy developed with the water needs of the WISP (for snow making in the winter and irrigation in the summer) has made for a more efficient use of water on the mountain.
A key component of the ASCI vision was to create easy access to adventure sports for local residents, disabled persons and beginners to outdoor recreation. ASCI is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that seeks to introduce the public to adventure sports, create local programming for Garrett County residents and further environmental stewardship through its various guided and non-guided programming. It will also be home to various ‘adaptive paddling’ activities for disabled persons, and will offer an array of trips, clinics and activities that will promote the environmental value of adventure sports.
Finally, ASCI seeks to serve as a catalyst for growing adventure sports in Garrett County. ASCI will introduce people to adventure sports who might otherwise hesitate rafting down a wild river, mountain biking a remote trail, or even running down a trail. Overall, ASCI will bring more traffic to the myriad other outdoor offerings in the region. As such, ASCI will refer its guests to various adventures beyond ASCI’s offerings, including rafting the world renowned Upper Youghigheny River, skiing at the WISP resort, fly fishing the natural streams of Garrett County, and hiking/biking/running the growing network of trails around the county.