Contributed photo.Blind athletes carve slopes at Mt. Hood Meadows posted on 04/01/2020
An enthusiastic group of visually impaired athletes enjoyed
the sensation of gliding down the slopes at Mt. Hood Meadows ski resort on Saturday,
March 7 as part of the Northwest Association for Blind Athletes (NWABA) final
ski event for the winter season.
The NWABA hosted nine ski events during the winter season of
2019-20, pairing blind athletes with Mt. Hood Meadows instructors for adaptive
lessons. For many of the participants these lessons where a first-time
opportunity to experience skiing, while for others it was a chance to revisit a
cherished activity they enjoyed before the loss of vision.
“I never had the chance (to ski) when I was fully sighted
because I never lived by mountains before,” program participant Anita Thomas
said. “For someone who started two years ago and being 70 years old, it’s
terrific fun. It’s worth getting up at five or earlier in the morning.”
The NWABA provided all equipment, slope access and
transportation from Vancouver or Portland for the two-hour events. The
organization partnered with Mt. Hood Meadows to provide one-on-one guidance for
the athletes from resort instructors who have received training as part of the
resort’s adaptive skiing program.
The adaptive training allows instructors to make snow sports
accessible to people of all abilities. The instructors assist individuals with
visual, cognitive or physical impairments in closely guided lessons or snow
“It’s very similar to how we teach an average snow sport
lesson, but the coolest part of it is how it emphasizes strong communication
and really listening to the individual,” said Emily Hearle, training and
adaptive supervisor for Mt. Hood Meadows.
The NWABA is a Vancouver-based nonprofit organization
founded in 2007 with the mission of offering “life-changing opportunities
through sports and physical activity to individuals who are blind and visually
impaired.” This winter marked the fifth year the organization has hosted ski
“We had close to full rosters for all our ski events this
year,” said Mary Holmes, programs specialist for the NWABA.
“It’s a great experience. We’ve seen a lot of growth with
the athletes coming back and doing the program each year,” she added. “People
have a good time on the slopes with the instructors from Mt. Hood Meadows;
they’re very knowledgeable. We definitely want to continue the program next
In addition to skiing the NWABA offered a winter snowshoeing
program in Eugene this past season and hopes to expand it to Mount Hood next
With the ski season completed, the NWABA will soon offer
spring programs for blind athletes including hiking, tandem bicycling, stand-up
paddle boarding, kayaking and a running program.
For more information, visit www.nwaba.org or
By Ben Simpson/MT