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March 30, 2023 | Athlete Profile, Programs: Winter, Telling Stories
By Peyton Hicks
“I’ve been skiing with the same person for 12 years,” says Vermont Adaptive Volunteer of the Year Sandy Kish. “I’ve really gotten to know the family, and when he comes to ski team, he’s happy.”
To be happy is to feel a sense of belonging. To feel a sense of belonging can be found in the Vermont Adaptive Ski and Ride Team community. As a former racer myself, I can attest to that statement. After spending the last day of practice with the team, I immediately was struck with that same overwhelming sense of community I felt growing up. But better.
The athletes arrive on Sundays around noon and begin booting up by 12:30 p.m. for a long afternoon on Mt. Ellen at Sugarbush Resort. Norm, Emily, Felicia, and the rest of the staff and volunteer coaches meet with the athletes and make a training plan for the day. They head out on the hill to either train gates on Cracker Jack or practice drills based on their individualized skiing abilities. The coaches tailor the athletes’ drills and instructions based on their ability in order for them to improve their technical skiing skills. Adaptive ski racing is the same as any other discipline in downhill racing. One coach at the top, one at the bottom. You ski around the gates as fast as possible, and if you miss a gate, you hike back up for it. If the course is too easy, or if the athletes are mastering the drills, the coaches find ways to make the course harder.
But the best part is, the volunteer coaches and the athletes work together to find solutions to discover the best drills to enhance one’s skiing abilities. Fellow athletes are friends they’ve known for years or their whole lives. And between those friends, everyone is each other’s cheerleader. Everyone is having fun. Vermont Adaptive athletes work hard and play harder. And that sense of community and hard work takes them far.
Athletes on the ski and ride team are training all season long to compete in Special Olympics and Paralympics events toward the end of the winter season. In addition, many athletes take interest in NASTAR racing, competitive racing, and even participate in Freeride competitions across Vermont. Some have qualified for NASTAR nationals and competed in Ski The East tours across Vermont.
“We’ve have had athletes start as young as age 7 or 9, and we’ve got folks who are still doing it and in their 30s,” said Norm Staunton, director of operations and ski coach.
It’s just part of their routine, it’s part of their identity. Like, ‘I’m a ski racer, I raced for Vermont Adaptive.’” Feeling empowered and happy are few of the many adjectives that describe the feel of the Vermont Adaptive Ski and Ride team. Whether you’re already skiing with the school program groups or looking to take your skiing abilities to the next level, the ski and ride team may be your key to feeling faster, empowered and happy.
Contact your program coordinator to learn more.