This past Sunday, a group of spirited CC students headed to Breckenridge Ski Resort not just to ski, but to offer skiers and riders with handicaps or special needs the chance to experience the beauty and excitement of the slopes.
They completed volunteer training at the Breckenridge Adaptive Ski and Ride School, a division of the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC), to learn the skills necessary to help skiers and riders with disabilities get down the mountain. These CC Adaptive Ski and Ride volunteers will continue to make the trip to Breckenridge throughout the winter to do rewarding and enjoyable work.
Junior and co-chair of Breck Adaptive Ski Club Katie Duker said that the trip was successful. “It was beautiful out and the BOEC staff were super nice and helpful,” she said.
Once certified, CC students become buddies for disabled skiers and riders, helping them to enjoy their experience on the mountain.
“[As volunteers] they are responsible for reading [their] students’ abilities, providing them with the right ski equipment, and helping the lead instructor both teach and maintain the safety of the student,” Duker said.
“A day on the mountain depends on what student you get,” added sophomore club participant Kristen Liberty, who got involved “simply by jumping in the van last year.” “Sometimes, as a volunteer, I shadow the instructor and student to offer moral support. Other times I am more engaged in trying to help the instructor give direction in ways the students will better understand.”
Duker has been involved ever since she initially read about the group on the CC website while applying to the school.
Her favorite part of working with Breck Adaptive Ski is “sharing one of [her] favorite activities with people who haven’t had the chance to experience it. The most rewarding aspect is always seeing the joy on people’s faces when they finally get something that [they] have been trying really hard to do.”
Senior volunteer Nate Boyce said, “The instructors love to help you learn about adaptive skiing techniques and other challenges that people with disabilities have. Many times the students have family members skiing with them, and seeing their commitment to their sibling or child is downright inspiring.”
Duker explained that the most challenging aspect is controlling the bi-skis and mono-skis, types of sit-skis that paraplegics and other handicapped participants use. The process involves skiing behind the disabled athlete, connected by tethers, in order to assist them in steering, balancing, and stopping.
“The most challenging aspect for me is learning each student,” Liberty said. “Everyone has a different disability, different personality, and different goal for the day. However, that challenge is what makes adaptive ski so much fun and so rewarding.”
It is clear that while these inspiring student volunteers are having an experience that, as Boyce said, is “fun and rewarding,” the days on the mountain are just as wonderful for those they are helping who would not otherwise have a chance to ski or ride.
If you are interested in getting involved, email Duker at Katherine.Duker@coloradocollege.edu.