Reporting Jay Lloyd
In the past, few people could envision amputees, the blind or people with developmental disabilities being able to ski. But the early seventies changed all that, as wounded veterans returned home from Vietnam and began searching for recreation and rehabilitation activities. A small group at Valley Forge Army Hospital led the way. Today, it’s called “Adaptive Skiing” and focuses on people with a wide range of disabilities. Four Pennsylvania ski resorts that are easily reached from the Philadelphia area offer regular Adaptive lessons and activities. Here’s where to find them. -Jay Lloyd
Camelback Mountain offers the most comprehensive Adaptive Skiing program in Pennsylvania. At the helm is Isabel Bohn, a dynamic woman and an amputee who has been teaching other amputees to ski and row for nearly four decades. The Camelback program accommodates children as young as five to adults and covers a wide range of disabilities. Instructors here have undergone special Adaptive Skiing training and are all certified professionals. Camelback Mountain provides all necessary equipment, and special parking arrangements are also available for people with mobility difficulties. Reservations for lessons and equipment rental are required. Call Isabel at 215-765-5118.
JACK FROST MOUNTAIN
Jack Frost Mountain was one of the earliest supporters of Adaptive Skiing programs. It took concepts developed by battle-tested veterans and adopted them for civilians while broadening the range of disabilities and age groups that could be included. Today, the program continues on weekends, with two two-hour sessions daily on Saturdays and Sundays. The program accepts children as young as five and includes adults of any age. Specially-designed skiing and snowboarding equipment is available at the mountain. Jack Frost also recommends that potential students consult with their doctor or therapist before enrolling. Reservations can be made by calling 1-570-443-8425 ext. 2503.
Blue Mountain has launched an Adaptive Skiing program geared toward children and adults with visual impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder and delayed development issues. Instructors are all certified, and this popular mountain within an hour of Philadelphia’s northern suburbs provides all the necessary equipment. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 610-826-7700 ext. 1519.
LIBERTY MOUNTAIN RESORT
Liberty Mountain offers a wide range of Adaptive Skiing programs under the Blue Ridge Adaptive Snow Sports (BRASS) umbrella. Among the best known is “three-track skiing” for amputees–picture one ski and poles with small ski outriggers. Four-track skiing, for people with balance problems, adds the second ski and the two outriggers. In addition, Liberty offers a “sit-down” ski for students who are wheelchair bound but can walk for short distances. The program also includes skiers with visual impairments and developmental or cognitive disabilities. Equipment is available at the mountain. The program operates on weekends and reservations are required, just call Blue Ridge Adaptive Snow Sports at 1-717-642-8282, or go to http://brasski.org/lesson.html to fill out a reservation form.
One note: Over the years, I’ve interviewed and skied with at least a dozen amputees and blind skiers, including Isabel Bohn. The one thing that they have all emphasized is that an active sport like skiing can provide a heightened sense of confidence. It is also considered to be a valuable form of exercise and therapy.