While most people in Saskatchewan are dreaming of summer, a group of disabled skiers from the province are hitting the slopes in British Columbia.
The Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing Ski & Snowboard Festival welcomes young people and their friends and family for a week of adaptive ski and snowboard lessons, racing and games at Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops, B.C.
“It’s a great way for people with disabilities, who may have been previously excluded, to partake in something they can appreciate with their whole family,” said Regina’s Steven Bell, an instructor with the association.
Bell is one of 200 people (including 15 Saskatchewan residents) attending the festival, which he described as one of the most exciting events of the year.
The participants have a range of a disabilities — some are visually impaired, while others are confined to a wheelchair — but Bell said that’s not stopping anyone he works with. Each is assigned to an instructor to help them hone their skills.
‘A very special bond’
Bell said the visually impaired skiers are “ensuring their complete and utter trust with the instructor because they don’t necessarily know where they’re going.”
At the beginning, instructors use a bamboo pole to guide skiers down the hill, but eventually they leave the pole behind, relying on verbal cues.
“It really creates a very special bond between that instructor and the student because it takes trust to get them down the slopes,” Bell said.
“We also have a couple of sit skiers here that are absolutely phenomenal — and when I say phenomenal, I mean they’re taking massive jumps.”
Sit skiing involves sitting in a seat that acts as a substitute for a wheelchair, which has a ski or skis underneath it.
It requires a lot of upper…