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Jack Rasmussen loves to ski fast. Try slowing him down and there’s simply too much enthusiasm to contain. Since age three, Jack has been skiing with his family at Pico Mountain in Killington, Vermont. Now 14, he skis mostly with his family, and his speed bodes well for him as a member of the Vermont Adaptive Ski and Snowboard Team.
For the seventh time, Jack will participate in the Vermont Special Olympics Winter Games this coming March as a third-year member of the Vermont Adaptive team and the inaugural member of the Pico contingent.
“Jack is a strong green trail skier and a good blue skier,” says his mom, Sarah. “But he needs to be cued when he is going too fast on steeper hills.”
Jack was born with Dup15q syndrome (he has an extra copy of one of his 15th chromosomes), a condition that can cause mobility and attention challenges. Jack’s parents helped him ski when he was younger by using a harness to help control his speed. During elementary school, he participated in the Killington Elementary School Trail Blazers program, a parent/child volunteer ski program in connection with Killington Resort. His instructor was from Vermont Adaptive and would arrive at Killington and join the Trail Blazers each week.
“Mary (his instructor) was consistent, and Jack trusted her as a coach,” says Sarah. “I believed in Mary mainly because Mary believed in Jack.” Each year Vermont Adaptive volunteer instructors provide assistance and instruction to students with disabilities who attend the local school. The organization offers similar outreach programs throughout the state in an effort for students with disabilities to continue to participate with their peers in school athletic programming.
“Everyone understands; there is no judgment”
Jack is fired up for another ski season at Pico and continues to chase down his older brother, Kyle, on the slopes. He still skis with a guide—his dad, Erik, or Kyle or a Vermont Adaptive instructor—and knows his way around Pico’s trails. Regardless of who the guide is, verbal cues are used to tell him when to wait in line, sit down on the chair lift, how to get off the lift, which direction to go, ski and stop at certain points, when he is too close to the edge, and to slow down when he is going too fast.
Each June, Jack and his huge extended family are a prominent team in the annual Long Trail Century Ride to Benefit Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports. Jack, his mom, a few aunts, uncles and cousins tackle the 5K route while his dad, brother and a few more aunts and uncles typically head out for a ride on the century ride or 60-mile circuit. Whether it’s hopping on a bike or sliding down the mountain, it appears there is always a need for speed.
“Some days Jack has no problem strapping his boots on, other days he might be having a meltdown, but no one is fazed,” she says. “Everyone understands; there is no judgment.” Working with Vermont Adaptive has made it possible for the family to share Sundays together skiing, she adds. “It’s the perfect fit.”