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By Hunter Hedenberg
“And that folks, is how you ski” is 14-year-old, Vermont Adaptive athlete Jasmine Mead’s catchphrase. She says it when she’s out on the slopes, but not when you think she would. It doesn’t come out after she’s left her ski instructors in the dust or after she pops back on to the trail from a little jaunt through the woods.
Jasmine only says this when she makes some sort of skiing mistake and has ended up in the snow instead of on top of it. She said it once after catching the tips of her skis in a waterbar and doing a full superman down the slopes. It exemplifies her attitude, and her sense of humor. Whenever Jasmine is out on the trails with Vermont Adaptive, she brings a bubbliness and exuberance to her skiing that makes our instructors and volunteers forget that they’re teaching and think that they’re just out skiing for the day.
Brean Mead, Jasmine’s mom, brought Jasmine to Vermont Adaptive for the first time three years ago. Already involved with several musical instruments, and having done some other adaptive sports program, Jasmine was looking for a new activity, and a friend referred the family to Vermont Adaptive.
One hour into Jasmine’s first lesson, she wanted to quit. Because Jasmine is extra sensitive to sensations, the pain of wearing ski boots made her want to head to the base lodge as fast as she could. She is also afraid of heights. The combination of the ski boots and the chairlift nearly did her in. Her instructors were committed to turning the experience around for her though. Brean says that that level of commitment is one of her favorite things about the program. “Vermont Adaptive never wants anyone to leave on a bad note. Even when they have a tough client or a frustrating situation, the instructors are never upset or frustrated and always treat every athlete with respect,” she says.
By the second hour of Jasmine’s lesson, after working on her ski boots and navigating chairlifts, Jasmine asked Brean if they could come skiing every day. Now, Jasmine is a regular with us during any season. She kayaks, bikes, paddleboards, and sails, though skiing is definitely her favorite. Jasmine loves it because it’s a place for her to have pure, unadulterated fun. Her favorite thing to do is to try to lose her instructors on the mountain. She’ll take a tight turn onto a different trail, duck into the woods, or stop on a dime. “I just like to leave them in my dust,” she says. It’s also a challenge for her. Jasmine believes that skiing is great because “it makes you face your fears, but there’s a reward afterwards”.
Her mom loves the program because it allows Jasmine to have the freedom to be herself and have fun on the mountain, but never outside the bounds of safety. Jasmine’s disability is largely invisible, so Brean has had difficulty in the past enrolling her in other programs. Programs for able-bodied athletes didn’t supply the safety structure that Jasmine needed, but she found that other adaptive athletic programs kept Jasmine too separated from the rest of the world. One of the aspects that both Brean and Jasmine love about Vermont Adaptive is that Jasmine is doing what she loves, alongside able-bodied athletes, without compromising Jasmine’s safety or erasing her disability. Jasmine works with the same few instructors each time, and she and our Program Coordinator, Kelly Walsh, have a relationship that goes back years. Brean knows that when Jasmine walks out the base lodge doors with her skis, she is going to be with people who know and care about her.
It’s these personal relationships that keep Jasmine and her mom coming back. Vermont Adaptive programs are about enabling people who may not otherwise have the freedom to participate in mountain sports. Jasmine loves to ski, but Brean says that without Vermont Adaptive they never would have had the chance to get her on the mountain. She gets to be herself, work at her own pace, stay safe, all while having fun doing something she loves.