Shasta Disabled Sports USA’s Ski Buddy Program gives skiers with disabilities the opportunity to ski the slopes at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park with a trained assistant.

Shasta Disabled Sports USA’s Ski Buddy Program gives skiers with disabilities the opportunity to ski the slopes at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park with a trained assistant.

About a dozen volunteers participated in a Ski Buddy training day on Jan 9. Volunteers initially “come with an open heart, but they’re not sure what that means,” said  instructor and board member Donna Boyd. Training helps to get volunteers moving in the direction to be a buddy, she said.  There are “lots of opportunities for ongoing training.” Eventually the ski buddy will be “partnered” with an adaptive skier. The goal is “to fit the skier and the buddy so it works well and is a positive experience for everyone,” said Boyd.

Ski buddies are trained to give assistance to disabled skiers who use the bi- or mono-skis, snow-slider or outriggers. Visually impaired skiers can ski side-by-side with a buddy holding onto a guide pole if needed.

“I felt like the training was good. I felt pretty confident that I was able to do it,”  said Craig Vivas who trained last winter as a ski buddy.  He said Shasta Disabled Sports matched him up with adaptive skiers according to his ability and training.  “The people I skied with were really appreciative and had a good time.”

Instructors Boyd, Didier Monath, Anna Soviecke, and Aaron Beverly took time to welcome volunteers, explain the program, and provide training on how to use the adaptive ski equipment. Volunteer trainer Steve Jaroch and adaptive skier/instructor Patrick Cottini rode in the adult bi-skis and also provided feedback and training during the day.  

Cottini is a Level 2 PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) adaptive instructor who suffered a C7 spinal cord injury at the age of 15.  A year after his injury he began skiing again in a bi-ski. “I got on the snow and got going, and I knew I was back in my element,” he said. Cottini had ski raced in high school before his bicycling accident.

Eight-year old Annie Boyd volunteered her time to ride in the child’s bi-ski. Volunteers practiced harnessing, loading and unloading, steering, and tethering the bi-skis down the hill.  

Volunteers for visually impaired skiers practiced using verbal directions and a guide pole to help skiers maneuver down the hill.

Boyd said the goal “is to get every skier to their highest level of independence based on their ability. With each student, independence is the key.” She added that ski buddies are there to help with “differences in terrain and conditions” and “through a steeper spot or more crowded conditions” if it’s needed.

Another ski buddy training will be Jan. 23 at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park. A free adaptive weekend is scheduled for March 19 with free adaptive ski and snowboard lessons at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park.

Other events include the Nordic and Snowshoe Day on Feb. 5 and the Slide, Ride, Run, Glide race on April 17 starting at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park.  

Shasta Disabled Sports USA, a local non-profit organization, has summer activities too.

To find out more about the Ski Buddy Program or other programs with SDS/USA call 530-925-1531 or visit www.shastadsusa.org. Shasta DS/USA is a chapter of the national Disabled Sports USA Organization.