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Guest Blogger Hunter Hedenberg preps for the first day of the 2016-2017 ski season.

A Newbie’s Perspective of Becoming a Volunteer Instructor

December 19, 2016 | News, Programs: Winter, Volunteer

By Hunter Hedenberg, guest blogger 

It’s hard to tell what kind of person someone is when the only information you have is what color ski helmet you’re looking for. But if that person is standing in extremely cold weather on the top of Mt. Ellen at Sugarbush Resort to learn how to teach adaptive skiing or snowboarding, it’s probably safe to say that this person is worth his salt. Consider this an ode to the new Vermont Adaptive volunteers.

On Dec. 10, Mount Ellen, the second peak of Sugarbush Resort, hadn’t opened to the public for the season yet, but resort officials had graciously agreed to open some trails for Vermont Adaptive and the Green Mountain Valley School for both groups to work on training. The thermometer read at exactly zero degrees at the summit of the mountain. My toes were frozen, and I had pulled all of my fingers into fists inside my gloves in an effort to keep them warm. And I was standing with a group of volunteers,Vermont Adaptive instructors and staff to listen to instruction on skiing drills, how to handle different cognitive and behavioral situations on the mountain, and how to teach in different styles, including non-verbally, through games and kinesthetically.

I’m not sure I can effectively convey how bitterly cold it was, or more importantly how well the new volunteers handled it. Our trainers were understanding and keeping an eye out for people with signs of being too cold, but we also had some serious work to do. Learning on snow is one of the best ways to prepare the people who work with Vermont Adaptive’s athletes. Our volunteers knew that, and faced the cold with an attitude that simply showed that they knew they needed to get the job done. There were shivers, and chattering teeth, but no complaints. Never in my life have I seen such a good natured bunch of people.

We had already held our off-snow orientation the week before where we played ice breaker games with our shoes off, listened to the stories and advice of seasoned volunteers, and all came together with the most delicious and abundant spread of potluck dishes I’ve ever seen. (Apparently, Vermont Adaptive volunteers also know how to cook.) There was a feeling of excitement and camaraderie at being able to share this experience, and just a little bit of awkwardness that always comes with being in a room full of people you don’t know. Luckily, if you’re bad at remembering names, like I am, everyone wears a nametag.

That same feeling was present during on-snow orientation. It was harder to see through the scarves and goggles, but smiles and laughter were definitely present. There was also this sense of determination. It was like everyone was so committed to learn what they needed to know to be able to instruct athletes to the best that they possibly could. That they couldn’t possibly be cold. It’s that kind of attitude that Vermont Adaptive attracts and brings to everything that they do. Mix in delicious potlucks, a constant supply of candy, humor and determination together, and you’ve described the setting for volunteering as an instructor during the winter at Vermont Adaptive. Any athlete, of any age or ability, is welcome at Vermont Adaptive. There is a crew of staff and volunteers who will do what they need to to get athletes on the mountain. I met that crew last weekend, and I’m lucky enough to get to hang out with them every week for the rest of the winter, and I hope to see you out there!

Hunter Hedenberg is a senior at the University of Vermont and has a passion for the outdoors and recreation. She will be guest blogging for Vermont Adaptive through the 2016-2017 Winter Season.

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