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Skiing Into Recovery with Pete Apgar

April 24, 2019 | Athlete Profile, Programs: Winter, Volunteer

Peter Apgar lost his vision when he was 21. Shortly afterwards, this lifelong skier started skiing with Vermont Adaptive. His first time out on the hill with us was nearly 20 years ago, but he took a 10-year hiatus while he lived in Washington D.C. working in his fast-paced financial and technology sector jobs. It wasn’t until Pete’s boss became concerned over his health that he advised him to “go home and do what you need to get well.”

It was a good thing that his boss was so persistent because when Pete came home to his native Vermont to see his doctor, he learned that he was facing some life-threatening health issues. He spent months on dialysis yet never stopped doing the sports he loves, including skiing, wakeboarding and surfing all the while making his doctors nervous.

Nine months ago, Pete was not in a place to be pulling on ski boots or donning his orange “Blind Skier” pinnie. You would never know it by Pete’s exuberant personality and near flawless skiing technique today, but less than a year ago he was recovering from kidney transplant surgery.

Now having recovered, Pete’s doctors are happy to see him out on the mountain and being active, but that is nothing compared to the obvious happiness that shines on Pete’s face while skiing. Pete learned to ski as as child, long before he lost his vision in his 20s, and Vermont Adaptive was thrilled that we could help keep him on the mountain after he lost the ability to see. Pete quickly made a smooth transition from skiing by sight, to skiing by feel and with guides calling turns.

Since the beginning of his guided skiing, roughly 19 years ago, Pete and Frank “Gib” Gibney  have developed a strong history and close friendship that is readily apparent whenever you find them together. With a huge smile, Gib makes the joke that he frequently “forgets that Pete is blind.”  They openly share their feelings about about skiing together or the health challenges that Pete was once facing or any other of the myriad of topics the two have in common. When they are done poking fun at each other on the chairlift, they use a high-tech radio system inside their helmets to communicate turns. Pete skis in front, with Gib behind him calling turns and directing Pete down the hill.

It’s volunteers like Gib that Pete says he’s impressed by and thankful for. He says that skiing with Vermont Adaptive gives him a sense of security and camaraderie.

“From the highly trained Vermont Adaptive volunteers to the Sugarbush Ski Patrol, I know that this group understands visual impairment and I can ski safely,” Pete says.

It’s not just that he feels safe on the slopes, though. Pete also says that when he is with Vermont Adaptive he has the chance to meet people who aren’t afraid to interact with the visually impaired.

“In a lot of social situations, people see you walk in as a blind person, and they may not be comfortable or willing to interact with you,” he said. “But then you walk in here, and everyone comes up to you and shakes your hand, introduce themselves and immediately engages with you.”

Pete doesn’t take breaks from his full-time job in I.T. to come skiing simply because it is healthy, however. He genuinely loves the sport. During his runs with Gib, Pete is out to ski the good snow, to pick the best lines, and make jokes the entire time. He occasionally works on his multi-year campaign of convincing Gib to guide him over a jump so he can catch some air. It hasn’t worked yet, but we’ll keep you posted.

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