We jumped at the opportunity to do guest posts with Pat McCloskey at Chronicles of McCloskey. Jesse is an avid skier and started his segue into endurance sports to improve upon his ski skills. While I’ve yet to hit the slopes, Pat’s involvement with BOLD definitely makes me want to learn.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to ski? Maybe you have thought about it? Maybe you have even scheduled a potential outing at your local area? But for some reason, you have delayed, found other activities, or perhaps even a little fear is involved? If you look at the video above you will see a visually impaired skier with a guide skiing down a black diamond slope in Pennsylvania. As you could surmise, it takes great courage to attempt such a venture when you cannot see the slope, the snow, or the guides around you.
I have been involved with Western Pa. BOLD (Blind Outdoor Leisure Development) for over 34 years and as the program director for skiing, I am amazed at the courage and enthusiasm that these individuals have for the sport of skiing. As a PSIA Level III certified instructor, I make it my business to train our guides every year and make them aware of the feelings of our skiers when I ask them to close their eyes for just a few seconds to feel what it is like to ski without sight.
Although the commands are verbal, the techniques for teaching skiing are fundamentally the same whether you are teaching a sighted person or a visually impaired person. Obviously you cannot show the skier what you want them to do, but by physically taking their hands or gently putting them into the right body positions, you can have success. The commands are simple in the beginning- “right turn, left turn, stay, stop,” As the skiers advance, the commands become a little more definitive -” right one, left one, right two, left two, right three, left three, stop, stay,etc.” The numerical commands indicate the steepness of the slope with one being gentle rotary turns, two indicating a pitch change, and three indicating a steep pitch ahead.
As with sighted skiers, the physical ability and the mental perseverance dictates success. I often tell people that I can teach them to ski. If I can teach a visually impaired person to ski, I can teach anyone. I get some chuckles and some comments, but the simple fact is that when most people see this video, or actually see a blind skier on the hill, they are amazed and their confidence level increases with the usual comment,” if they can do it, so can I.” Oftentimes our skiing program inspires success at our local area in that the ski school makes it their business to ski their groups off to the side to watch one of our skiers come down the hill. The amazement in their eyes actually aids the instructors and I often hear how our group helps with their lessons.
Bottom line- if you are interested in skiing- try it. Take a lesson from a PSIA professional at your local area. A lot of folks try to get a friend to teach them, or a spouse, but a good introductory lesson from a certified professional is invaluable for a good start and many happy years of skiing and learning new technique. If you are out there, look for the orange bibs that say,” Blind Skier”. Chances are you will meet an enthusiastic, skilled skier……….just like you. Thanks for reading and think snow!
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