Riding the chairlift, I marveled at the arcing, carving turns made at high speeds. The ski swooped back and forth across the hill, leaving the tell tale arc of s turns etched into the snow. The skill of the skier was evident for all who watched him.
What made this all the more remarkable was who the skier was and what equipment he used. The skier used a sit-ski to carve turns down the ski slope, a product of the National Sport Center for the Disabled (NSCD) at Winter Park.
One of the most devastating parts of becoming disabled can be the loss of recreation for an athletic person. They can no longer participate in things that gave them the greatest joy.
Years ago, an accidental gunshot wound left a friend of mine paralyzed. Visiting him at the rehab hospital, all he wanted was to go outside. With pride, he showed me how he could navigate doorways and ramps and go to the local park. The smile on his face showed me how much it meant to just have a taste of nature.
NSCD provides these outdoor and active experiences for so many people of different disabilities. Providing extensive training to a talented and extensive volunteer staff, their presence is evident at Winter Park Ski Resort.
I marvel at both the Guide and the intrepid Blind Skier who make their way down Jack Kendrick. As they make turn after turn, the guide yells out direction to the skier, alerting of terrain changes. It is a sight to behold.
But one of my favorite stories is told to me by a volunteer who works with kids who have autism. “You should have seen the smile on his face!” she says, explaining the great adventures they had. Autistic kids can struggle to fit in, and a day on the ski hill can bring them a feeling of accomplishment that is truly unmatched.
According to their website, NSCD is one of the “largest therapeutic and adaptive sports agencies in the world.” They got their start in 1970, giving ski lessons to child amputees. Since they have only grown, now providing recreational experiences for adults and children with a myriad of disabilities.
I’m not sure who benefits more — the volunteers or the participants. In talking with many of the people I’ve met who volunteer with NCSD, they feel so fulfilled and inspired by those they help.