In Cross Country Skiing – more than meets the eye, I announced my re-entry into the cross country ski world with a planned New England Regional Ski For Light (NERSFL) nordic skiing trip to Vermont’s own Craftsbury Outdoor Center. Well, I’m back and while I’m still reeling from this invigorating and enjoyable weekend, I’d like to share my views on being a first time participant in this expedition of blind skiers and sighted guides.
On Saturday morning, all the skiers and ski guides met after breakfast to discuss the day’s events. After introducing Marie Hennessy, NERSFL President, she stressed “safety, communication, and fun” as the key ingredients to a great weekend. Marie explained that each day, we’d be matched up with a guide for a morning ski, have a sit-down lunch, and then ski with a different guide for the afternoon.
The range of “blindness” among the participants varied widely, as did their skiing ability, so safety was imperative in preventing mishaps and injuries. It became evident that there was no relationship between vision and skiing skills. And a skier’s vision level and individual preferences determined what type and level of guidance was appropriate. That was one area where communication between the guide and the blind skier was crucial. As long as that was there, the fun part was easy.
With safety and communication in mind, we went out and had some good, old-fashioned fun. In the morning, I was matched with ski guide, Ferdinand, an experienced long-distance skier. He led me eight miles (yes, I’m bragging) around trails called “Sam’s Run” and “Ruthie’s Way”. After a huge, delicious lunch, I could have spent the afternoon napping, but that would not have been “seizing the day”.
All weekend, I observed ski guides caringly and skillfully guiding skiers with different types of vision loss and skiing ability. Amy, a fellow ZoomText user and oceanographer, was guided by Donna, who described the terrain, pitch and distances for her. We all chatted along the way while enjoying the freshly falling snow. Exercise, nature, great conversation and camaraderie with every guide and skier I met, made this an incredible experience.
I went into the event not knowing anyone, and came away with many new friends. I found every ski guide and blind participant to be interesting, fun, and adventurous. Whether you’re totally blind or low vision, a good skier or a new skier, there was a friend and guide to help. I’m grateful to NERSFL for assisting my re-entry into the cross country ski world as a low-vision skier. The NERSFL’s next Nordic event is in March at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire, and I’ve heard the Ski For Light International Week shouldn’t be missed. One thing is for sure, I will rendezvous with NERSFL again in Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall because blind sporting and friendship is for all seasons.