Though we were on the northern edge of the coastal storm Nemo, we did get a nice shipment of snow just in time for the Sixth Annual Ski Festival at Pico Mountain. A few travelers from Wisconsin and Colorado could not make it but 23 eager participants arrived Friday afternoon just ahead of the snow and wind. Arden had school cancelled, enabling us to catch an early bus up north where we immediately hit the pool and hot tub. You have to prepare those muscles for the hard work ahead, you know. Our roommates Risa and her daughter, Sarah arrived shortly after we did. Sarah is a student at the Perkins School for the Blind and grew up skiing with the Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports program. She gave me some great tips on how she navigates the web by just listening.
After mingling around the fireplace, we enjoyed pizza with the other participants and saw some familiar faces. Linda Goodspeed, whose book I blogged about recently was there with her daughter. We decided that more frequent get-togethers are in order, especially to compare notes on parenting with low vision.
Saturday morning greeted us with a fresh foot of powder and sunny blue skies – not bad. After trying a few turns, I told my ski guide, Craig Cowles, that I wasn’t sure how I’d need him but told him I couldn’t keep up with my eager beaver 9-year-old who thought she was old enough to tour the mountain on her own. He quickly assessed my ability and hers and took the role of skiing far enough behind her so that she felt like she was queen of the mountain and at the same time kept an eye out for me behind him. I’ve never really had too much of a problem on the slopes despite my vision because both people and trees contrast very well with the white snow and since no one skis uphill, it’s obvious what direction they’re going.
Craig knew the mountain so well, so it was great to follow him and not worry about being stranded at the top of a double black diamond (expert) trail and lose Arden because all the skiers pretty much look the same. It turns out Arden is a “woods” skier, a girl after my own heart, so he led us through some interesting trails that we both could handle, keeping both of us happy and challenged.
Since attending the New England Regional Ski for Light cross country skiing event for the blind in Craftsbury, Vermont, I’ve been intrigued by the ski guides who always seem to love what they do. So on the chairlift I asked Craig, who is 69 and a picture of health, what he liked about ski guiding. He promptly answered, “the people.” He has guided autistic children and people with physical disabilities who never thought they could ski. As Craig said, “when they discover they can ski, they feel like they can do anything.”
Always a team effort, my counselor from the DBVI, Melissa Hoelerich, was volunteering at the event as well. She doesn’t ski, but made sure Arden and I could find everything we needed. And the local rotary club grilled burgers for us. After about 6 or 7 runs, with thighs a-burning, I told Arden and Craig that I was done for the day. The best thing you can do for a guide is to do everything in your power to not get hurt. Keeping in shape during the year, knowing your limitations, and when to quit are the biggest ingredients for that.
Back at the Cortina Inn, the fireplace and hot tub were a welcome sight. There, I met Bob, a fellow ZoomText user from Pennsylvania who plans to come back year after year. And at dinner, I was so excited to meet an old friend, Joanie, who I had skied with in Craftsbury a few years ago.
We didn’t make it to the cross country venue on Sunday, but Linda said they had a great time. She was just going to do the snowshoeing due to her vision but with the fun and patient guidance of Joanie, she enjoyed the faster, yet quieter gliding that cross country skiing provides. Joanie loves guiding so much that she not only does the New England ski events, but usually goes to the Ski for Light International Week, with a yearly changing venue. Next winter it’s going to be in Anchorage, Alaska and she’s trying to convince me to go. Twist my arm; I will start saving my pennies now.
If all this activity wets your whistle, check out some upcoming events from the following web sites:
- United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA)
- Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports
- New England Regional Ski For Light
- Ski for Light
If you can’t travel, try your local sports venues and see if they have any adaptive programs. You never know until you try.