An adaptive ski program that has operated at Eldora Mountain Resort for more than 35 years announced Thursday it is canceling its 2013-14 season after losing its lease there, and the nonprofit operation claims it's left with few options as the new season fast approaches.

"What we would like to do is we would like to get our home back," said Finn Murphy, executive director of Ignite Adaptive Sports and a Boulder resident. "Eldora is in a position to reverse course here and allow us to serve our disabled population, and we would very much like them to do that."

The only other option Finn cited, one he called "the least attractive solution," would be "to try to transport some of our students up to other ski areas, such as Winter Park or Breckenridge. We have relationships with both of those adaptive programs, and they would be very happy to have those students."

But Finn is hoping it doesn't come to that.

Ignite enabled disabled skiers to participate at Eldora for $70 for a half-day lesson, and $140 for a full day -- those prices covering the fee for an instructor, lift ticket and any required equipment.

"Prices for that at a for-profit in the open market could be $600 to $700," Finn said. "We had the lowest price for any adaptive program in Colorado."

Ignite operated at Eldora every year since 1975, Finn said -- minus the 1986-87 season when the resort was closed -- under a series of $1-a-year leases.

According to a letter Thursday from Ignite to Eldora Mountain Resort manager Bill Killebrew, Ignite had been in "protracted negotiations" with the resort following a Sept. 1 notification "that Ignite's lease at EMR would not be renewed" after it expired Sept. 13.

The letter stated that the resort's latest offer was a memorandum of understanding calling for Ignite and Eldora to share adaptive facilities and equipment.

"Unfortunately, due to liability concerns, operational difficulties and issues affecting our nonprofit status, we informed you that we are unable to agree to these terms," stated Ignite's letter, authored by Finn and by Ignite board president David Levin.

Ignite countered with a proposal that Ignite operate independently on-site, while using a smaller portion of the Eldora resort than it had in previous years.

"In our meeting last week, your representative Rob Linde rejected that proposal and declined to propose another framework for an agreement this season," Thursday's letter from Ignite to Eldora stated.

Linde said he could not comment on the situation Thursday but that a statement from the resort would be issued Friday.

The Denver Post reported in September that Eldora planned to bring the program in-house, adding adaptive lessons for special-needs skiers and snowboarders as part of its own ski school.

"We are going to manage it," Linde told the Post then. "We hope to improve the program and make it a better program and serve people with disabilities better. We are not throwing it out."

For the moment, Finn remains concerned about the 200-plus disabled students he said Ignite has been accommodating in recent seasons, providing them more than 1,000 lessons a year.

One of those students has been 28-year-old Eric Raley, a brain-injured Air Force veteran living in Aurora. He said he has been a client of Ignite each season since 2008-2009, progressing from bi-skis to a "slider," which he described as a "walker on skis," to "solo, stand-up skiing, all by myself."

He had been planning to be back at Eldora with Ignite this season.

"I'm upset because I'm a disabled veteran," Raley said. "I don't have a lot of options for helped-with skiing, which helps me feel entirely different about myself. And now they're not doing it, and that sucks."

Marie Rotter, formerly of Boulder and who now lives with her husband, Dan, and their two children in Arvada, said adaptive skiing lessons with Ignite were a critical step in achieving progress with their 9-year-son, who was diagnosed at age 3 on the autism spectrum. Prior to his involvement with Ignite, her son would routinely be kicked out of a wide range of activities when his behavior became unacceptable.

"Before he started to do this at Eldora, literally everything we tried failed, so I did not have high hopes," Rotter said. "And he really liked it, and he had fun. He was laughing, messing around with the instructor, and he wanted to go back.

"It was, like, this miraculous, 'Oh my God, he can actually enjoy something and not freak out.' It really boosted his confidence as well."

Rotter, formerly a volunteer adaptive ski instructor at Eldora -- she met her husband at Eldora, where he started the adaptive snowboard program in 1996 -- is dismayed at the current state of things.

"I'm very disappointed, and I'm frankly concerned for them because, unfortunately, I know from working there that there's a lot of people coming there who can't afford to pay a full price for a ticket somewhere else," Rotter said. "I worry about whether are they going to still have access to these services. For a lot of these people, it's the only outdoor recreation that they get."

Eldora is scheduled to open Nov. 22.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Charlie Brennan at 303-473-1327 or brennanc@dailycamera.com.