The author (right) and his blind skier friend Joseph
Introduction by Jim Rauh
We have all been enjoying the wonderful photographic images gracing our newsletters and other communications which have been captured by our very own Kurt Snover.
Now, beginning with this Quarterly Newsletter, we are excited to feature a column penned by Kurt which further showcases his talents as our “Irregular Columnist”.
Kurt’s topics are likely to be quite varied but no doubt entertaining. I found his following article to be a touching reflection on his experience being part of the Ski for Light program. The article he has planned for a subsequent Quarterly Newsletter is a humorous recount of practical homeowner “how to” knowledge you might never have known you needed to know.
We hope you enjoy this bit of time together with Kurt through his stories.
Notes from an Irregular Columnist Kurt Snover
This coming February 23 - 27, our valley will again host a Ski for Light mixed-gender group of visitors from out of town who will stay at the Mazama Country Inn. Ski for Light is a national organization of blind and mobility impaired cross country skiers, sighted guides and other supporters. This year we expect 30 Seattle-area participants, several skiers from out-of-state, as well as a number of volunteer guides recruited locally.
A giveaway that this event is about to happen is the appearance of select Methow Valley cross country trails groomed with two sets of classic tracks side by side, courtesy of our wonderful Methow Trails. These tracks enable the disabled skier and the guide to ski next to each other and communicate easily, which is often essential for comfort and safety.
Part of new guide training and refresher training for returning guides involves skiing blindfolded - standing upright without falling down and skiing without falling down, all the while navigating climbs, descents and turns based on instructions from your guide. Let’s just say this little bit of role reversal is a great lesson in humility.
In recent years our Ski for Light skiers have ranged from tentative beginners to seasoned racers who have competed in the Paralympics and can ski the pants off any of the guides. Guiding, on the other hand, involves no special skills other than those taught in the training sessions.
Mobility impaired skiers, often paralyzed from the waist down, ski on a sit ski, a chair mounted on a pair of skis that the skier propels by poling. Some sit skis are designed low to the ground to minimize tipping over, which makes them difficult to pole. As a result, cross country sit skiers tend to be physically very strong.
The Ski for Light group are wonderful friends and lunchtime and evening get-togethers are a great bonding experience for everyone. Out on the trail this can be a disadvantage. While guiding, I find it easy to fall into a mindset where I’m just out with a friend, forgetting that around the bend there’s a potential hazard that I better warn my skier about. Fortunately, I’ve managed to never get my blind skier into trouble.
A touching reminder of the meaning of these outings comes when your blind skier stops to listen to the creek running under the bridge or feel the sun or the wind or the snow on his/her face. Quiet comes at special times like these, in contrast to the skiing where frequent comments and commands from the guide are necessary to keep the skier feeling safe and in control.
At an evening get-together back at the Mazama Country Inn last year, our skiers were asked what Ski for Light meant to them. I thought maybe all the yakking back and forth to keep the skiing going might be a real drawback. Then Tim, one of our most dedicated Ski for Light participants, told us: “No dog, no white cane, it’s FREEDOM.” Boy, that one brought tears to my eyes.
There’s an old saw about helping others and how helpers get more than they give. I can tell you this. The old saw is absolutely true, no question about it, when guiding for Ski for Light.
So if you’re out skiing and you come across a Ski for Light skier and guide, think about the wonderful pleasures they’re both experiencing. And be sure to say hello.
Sit skiers: Larry, Jason, and yes, Joseph, who was dying to try out a sit ski.