Adaptive programs for disabled skiers

Stuff that doesnt fit anywhere else.

Moderator: Moderator Group

LewLasher
World Cup
Posts: 632
Joined: Sun Dec 03, 2006 8:23 pm
Location: Stowe, Vermont

Adaptive programs for disabled skiers

Postby LewLasher » Thu Feb 10, 2011 4:59 pm

This year there is a new program in New England for disabled skiers, primarily veterans.

http://adaptive.nensa.net/?p=17

This program is sponsored by NENSA (which is known mostly for racing programs) and supported by a grant from USA Paralympics.

I learned about this program a couple of months ago, but today was my first day of volunteering. I'm not sure how helpful I was, but it was tremendously fun.

If you can find a similar program in your area, and if you have the time to volunteer, I would definitely recommend it!

LewLasher
World Cup
Posts: 632
Joined: Sun Dec 03, 2006 8:23 pm
Location: Stowe, Vermont

Postby LewLasher » Thu Feb 24, 2011 3:19 pm

The program that I'm volunteering with is scheduled for only one more week, but they have plans to bring it back next year and expand it.

It has been a mix of people using special adaptive equipment (sit-skis/sleds) and people using regular ("stand-up") skis. Last time, one of the veterans brought his teen-aged son, who had never done cross-country skiing before - but picked it up right away - and it was great to see the two of them skiing together.

I apologize for being repetitive, but: it's a lot of fun, and, if you get the chance to volunteer with something like this, by all means do it!

LewLasher
World Cup
Posts: 632
Joined: Sun Dec 03, 2006 8:23 pm
Location: Stowe, Vermont

List of adaptive programs in New England

Postby LewLasher » Thu Mar 03, 2011 8:56 pm

The NENSA site has a section devoted to adaptive XC skiing, including this page that lists various adaptive programs in New England (more than I thought there'd be):

http://adaptive.nensa.net/?page_id=8

LewLasher
World Cup
Posts: 632
Joined: Sun Dec 03, 2006 8:23 pm
Location: Stowe, Vermont

2011-2012 clinics for instructors/volunteers

Postby LewLasher » Thu Dec 01, 2011 12:58 pm

For the 2011-2012 season, NENSA is continuing and expanding its adaptive programs for disabled skiers.

They are co-sponsoring (with PSIA) a series of 4 clinics for instructors:

Dec 17-18: Bolton Valley, Vermont
Jan 4: New Gloucester, Maine
Jan 22: Weston, Massachusetts
Jan 23-24: Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

I'm planning to volunteer at the NENSA program in Weston, MA again this year, so I'll be going to the Jan 22 clinic. As a side benefit, I'll learn how to teach beginner XC skiers. (Many of the participants in the adaptive program use regular skis, rather than special sleds.)

For more information about these clinics, see http://adaptive.nensa.net/?p=469

Jon44
xcskiforum 20K
Posts: 45
Joined: Wed Dec 07, 2011 12:21 pm

Re: Adaptive programs for disabled skiers

Postby Jon44 » Wed Dec 07, 2011 5:26 pm

Thanks for the update Lew.

Look forward to meeting you at the event on 1/22.

Jon

Daisy3
xcskiforum 10K
Posts: 6
Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:11 am

Re: Adaptive programs for disabled skiers

Postby Daisy3 » Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:42 am

Great program. One of my friends' Dads actually was paralyzed from the waste down but had special equipment so he could still ski. Everybody loved this guy he had such a great attitude about everything. He really enjoyed hitting the slopes too; inspirational story. I also have a friend who has an artificial leg and snowboards. I bought him a pair of snowboard pants for Christmas so I'm hoping to hit the slopes with him this winter sometime.

LewLasher
World Cup
Posts: 632
Joined: Sun Dec 03, 2006 8:23 pm
Location: Stowe, Vermont

NY XC/biathlon races, clinics, training camp

Postby LewLasher » Wed Dec 28, 2011 8:59 am

Feb 3-5, 2012, Lake Placid, New York
Empire State Winter Games Adaptive Nordic Races

XC and biathlon races, clinics (with coaches from U.S. Paralympic Nordic Team), (optional) 3-day "training camp" at the Olympic Training Center

Open to novice and experienced skiers (standing, sitting, visually impaired)

Co-sponsored by NENSA, US Paralympic Nordic Team, Adirondack Adaptive Adventures and others.
Part of the Northeast Adaptive Race Series (NEARS)

https://www.nensa.net/calendar/index.html?id=1217

LewLasher
World Cup
Posts: 632
Joined: Sun Dec 03, 2006 8:23 pm
Location: Stowe, Vermont

Re: Adaptive programs for disabled skiers

Postby LewLasher » Sun Feb 26, 2012 5:58 am

Yesterday was my first time volunteering at an adaptive ski race.

I had a two-fer: in the morning were the (2nd day of the) college races, relocated to Stowe from Middlebury College due to continuing snow drought at their own trails (even despite yesterday's semi-localized blizzard that dumped about a foot here), then the adaptive race in the afternoon.

My volunteering duties ended up being mostly cheerleading. I was stationed alongside the sharp U-turn as the course emerged from the woods and up the hill to the finish line. I was instructed to be ready to help out any sit-skier who might get stuck sliding backwards, unable to make it up the hill. (There was a mix of sit-skiers, stand-up skiers, and a few visually impaired skiers.) But that situation never arose. Many of the sit-skiers had to race as hard as they could to stay in the same place. Some of them toppled over, as the curve was banked the wrong way. But they always pulled themselves back up, and they all made it up the hill for all their laps. So, the only thing I had to do was applaud my mittens silently and try to come up with imaginative words of encouragement to yell, such as "Go!"

It's almost too easy a cliche to use the word "inspiring" to describe an adaptive ski race, and pick your favorite metaphor about struggling uphill or just to keep from sliding downhill. But after the post-race reception/awards ceremony, I hung out with some of the skiers, and I was equally inspired by the afterwards conversations. I have to be careful not to violate people's privacy, especially as I was hearing details that disabled skiers share with each other about their injuries. But I also heard the encouragement they gave each other: don't settle for less than the best medical care available in the U.S.; don't settle for lesser competitions when you can go out for the Paralympics.

rubennedy
xcskiforum 10K
Posts: 5
Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2012 4:18 pm

Re: Adaptive programs for disabled skiers

Postby rubennedy » Wed May 02, 2012 7:12 pm

At first I thought is impossible for a disabled person to go skiing until I read about Leslie Bolt, a woman who is disabled but chose skiing as a hobby. I really admire such kind of people since they had continue to live their life to the fullest despite of their disabilities.
Live, Laugh, Love

LewLasher
World Cup
Posts: 632
Joined: Sun Dec 03, 2006 8:23 pm
Location: Stowe, Vermont

Ski for Light - programs for blind and visually impaired ski

Postby LewLasher » Sun Dec 02, 2012 9:57 pm

Ski for Light (http://sfl.org/) has programs for blind and visually-impaired skiers. They are based in Minneapolis, and they have regional affiliates in the U.S. (South Dakota, Colorado, Michigan, Montana, New England, Pennsylvania, Puget Sound, Sierra Nevada, Wisconsin) and in other countries (Japan, Canada, Norway).

This winter they are having their big event in Bellaire, Michigan during the week of Jan 27 - Feb 3, 2013.

I'm going to volunteer for one of the New England events, Jan 4-7, 2013 in Craftsbury, Vermont. I've never volunteered as a guide for blind/visually-impaired skiers, so I'll be very interested to see the training they'll have for guides.

LewLasher
World Cup
Posts: 632
Joined: Sun Dec 03, 2006 8:23 pm
Location: Stowe, Vermont

My first experience as a guide skier for blind skiers

Postby LewLasher » Tue Jan 08, 2013 4:40 am

This past weekend I went on a ski trip for the blind and visually impaired in Craftsbury, Vermont. I drove 3 blind skiers to and from the event, trained to be a guide skier, guided in cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and joined in for the social activities with the group.

It was a lot of fun. I'd recommend it for anyone who enjoys skiing and who likes people. Apart from the specifics of being a guide skier, I'd say that the trip overall was like any ski trip, except that the people were a lot friendlier.

Being a guide skier is not particularly difficult, but it does require some training (an hour or two), and it is work. You don't have to be an expert skier, although it is a nice extra added plus if you can give some skiing advice to the less-experienced skiers. (On this trip, there were no first-time skiers, but the Ski For Light training manual has many pages on how to teach cross-country skiing.) The primary skills you need are more mental than physical: communication and perception.

The communication skills, which you can learn in an hour of training, are to speak consistently, clearly, accurately, and concisely. For example, one of the first things you are taught is to use standard language for turning left vs. stepping sideways to the left. Also, there is specific language for an emergency stop vs. just wait a second here while I check the map. And, of course, you ask the blind skier what's most important to them.

The perception skills, which I found myself learning gradually while serving as a guide skier, are both to observe the skier (so that you can detect and correct when s/he is going off course) and to observe the characteristics of the trail: straight or curved, if curved how sharp, flat or up or down, if on a hill how steep, how reliable are the tracks, are there bumps or obstacles or other "trail anomalies", trail-edge characteristics (e.g., tree, ditch). This may sound overwhelming, but, I should say, the great majority of the time, the trail characteristics were: flat or gentle hills, straight or gentle curves, perfect tracks, pristine snow, no obstacles, no one else on the trail. (This is typical of Craftsbury in mid-winter; your trail characteristics may vary.)

In snowshoeing, I was less concerned about steep hills (I'd still describe them, of course, but it wasn't as though the snowshoers were in danger of accelerating out of control) and more concerned with trail-edge characteristics (because the "trail" was really just two snowshoe-widths of packed down snow). The most common trail-edge characteristics were trees, although, even there, I made a distinction for evergreen trees, which, for some reason, I chose to describe as "soft trees."

Before I went on this trip, some of my friends were concerned that blind people skiing was particularly dangerous. I'd say that skiing in general does carry the risk of people falling down in snow. I feel the need to mention that, on this weekend's trip, one skier did fall down and incur a dislocated shoulder, and another skier mentioned having gotten a broken ankle on a previous trip, many years ago. And I also feel the need to disclose that, during the training, the skier whom I was guiding (we took turns pretending to be blind by keeping our eyes closed while skiing) managed to fall on a bridge and, to my horror, slide off it. Somehow he was miraculously unscathed, to my tremendous relief. I should also say that most of the guide skiers were equipped with 2-way radios (as cell phone coverage is crappy to non-existent in Craftsbury) in case of emergencies.

The social aspects of the trip were a lot of fun. There were a couple of guide skiers and blind participants who just sat around quietly, but, for the most part, the meals and evenings were animated by lively (loud) conversation(s). If you have ever attended an extended family gathering of Jewish or Italian folks, it's kind of like that. I didn't stick around for the Scrabble or card games, but others stayed up late.

As a guide skier, you also help out by guiding blind skiers across the street to the dining hall, loading up their meal at the buffet, and occasionally helping people find things. But it isn't as though you are constantly on duty, far from it. These are high-functioning adults you're dealing with, and they're perfectly capable of fending for themselves most of the time, although they do request and appreciate a little assistance here and there.

I'll conclude my trip report with the most embarrassing incident of the whole weekend: after picking up my 3 passengers in the Boston area, we stopped on the way to Vermont at the New Hampshire state liquor store, infamously located at the Hooksett rest area. (New Hampshire has a way of standing out, among the New England states, that makes it all too easy for us to make fun of it.) As we took our wine purchases towards the checkout, one of the blind skiers managed to strike her cane against a floor display (a trail-edge characteristic I had not thought to point out), so as to result in a spectacular cascade of breaking glass and flowing red wine. Fortunately, the state employees at the liquor store were completely unfazed and even blasé about the affair ("don't worry about it; we do it all the time") and our other roadside stops were uneventful.

[I've gone back and edited this to add a better concluding story:] As I was leaving at the end of the trip yesterday, I drove into a ski trail, instead of the driveway. It is emblematic of the spirit of the group that another guide skier, and his blind passenger, got out of their car to help push my car out of the snowbank.

All in all, a memorable and rewarding experience.

slowlee
xcskiforum 10K
Posts: 29
Joined: Fri Dec 08, 2006 12:37 pm
Location: New Hampshire

Re: Adaptive programs for disabled skiers

Postby slowlee » Wed Jan 09, 2013 8:38 pm

Good report on Ski for Light, Lew. It's a wonderful program. I had the pleasure of guiding when the group came to Bretton Woods a number of years ago. Timing did not work out to do it again, but I still hope guide once more some time in the future.
Leland

LewLasher
World Cup
Posts: 632
Joined: Sun Dec 03, 2006 8:23 pm
Location: Stowe, Vermont

More about being a guide skier for a blind skier

Postby LewLasher » Sun Feb 24, 2013 1:08 am

Next weekend I'll be going to the second trip (of 2 this winter) run by New England Regional Ski For Light.

In the meantime, yesterday I was a guide skier for a vision-impaired-but-partially-sighted skier. It was just the two of us, not an organized group outing. But she brought a "Blind Skier" vest for herself and a "Guide Skier" vest for me, so at least we looked official.

At first I was concerned that my guide skills would not be adequate for the planned outing, because the Stowe trails are hillier, narrower, and typically more crowded (especially on a weekend of school vacation week) than in Craftsbury in January (my only other experience as a guide skier). She recognized my concern, and agreed to stay on less-difficult terrain - for my sake! And, as it turned out, the weather worked in our favor, with forgiving new snow making the trails easier and slower. And the trails were, for some unknown reason, LESS crowded than usual.

It made a huge difference that she was partially-sighted (and a really good skier!). She could see me well enough (I wore blaze orange ski pants) to follow me along curvy downhills. My only previous experience on hills was in January in Craftsbury on beginner trails, where the hills were so minimal, and the snow so forgiving, that skiers could just stay in the tracks.

I did learn a new technique yesterday, although we didn't really need it, for use while skiing ahead on a downhill: clicking my poles (behind me) to provide an audible trace for the blind skier behind me.

Onward to New Hampshire next weekend ...

LewLasher
World Cup
Posts: 632
Joined: Sun Dec 03, 2006 8:23 pm
Location: Stowe, Vermont

Re: Adaptive programs for disabled skiers

Postby LewLasher » Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:57 am

This past weekend I went on my second trip with New England Regional Ski For Light.

I don't really have any new insights about guiding blind skiers. My reaction from this trip is that I found that I was relating to people more as individuals, rather than as "blind people." Some people on the trip were pretty good skiers. The person I was assigned to yesterday was a novice (Saturday had been her first day ever on cross-country skis, so I got her on her 2nd day), and I was coaching her as I would anyone else who was on their second day of skiing. Also, on this trip, I was more aware that some participants were totally blind and others had partial sight. (Also that one of the passengers in my carpool was low maintenance and generally easy to get along with, whereas another one was a major sick puppy.)

LewLasher
World Cup
Posts: 632
Joined: Sun Dec 03, 2006 8:23 pm
Location: Stowe, Vermont

Trail map for blind skiers

Postby LewLasher » Thu Jun 20, 2013 5:19 pm

As an off-season project, I decided to make a trail map that can be used by blind skiers.

The New England group (NERSFL) has its annual January trip at Craftsbury, so I decided to make a tactile map of the Craftsbury trails. I followed the pattern of Craftsbury's visual (paper and online) maps ( see http://www.craftsbury.com/skiing/nordic_center/trail_maps.htm ), where they have one map that covers the full trail system, and a second map that zooms in on the "core" trails closer to the touring center. I made the "core" map first, because many of the blind skiers are beginner skiers who stick to the nearby trails.

All the information on the map is in both tactile and visible form. Trails are indicated by materials of different textures and colors: beginner trails in green yarn, intermediate trails in sort-of-blue leather, and difficult trails in black pipe cleaners. Sloping metal objects along trails indicate hills.

All the text on the map is in braille and, because not all blind people read braille, raised letters. However, due to space constraints, the text in raised letters is often more abbreviated. For example, trail names are only 1-3 letters in the raised letters. (I found that the biggest challenge in making the map was finding room for text.) Nonetheless, almost all the trails are named in this way.

Image

Image

Image


Return to “General Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests