PSIA Scholarship Funds at Work for Adaptive Training
Skiing is skiing, whether you are temporarily able-bodied standing up with two skis, two boots and two poles, or whether you're somehow adapting to whatever life has brought your way. The adaptive ski world has always used a student-centered approach to skiing, taking into consideration the varying needs of each of our students. The Eagle Mount programs in Montana – Bozeman , Billings , Great Falls , and Helena – have strived to utilize the expertise of many individuals to meet those unique needs of our students with disabilities. Those experts include people with disabilities, family members of people with disabilities, school teachers, therapists, medical professionals, and PSIA to name a few.
Thanks to the generous support of PSIA NRM, Eagle Mount-Bozeman was able to bring Kathy Chandler, an Eastern PSIA Adaptive Examiner (level 3 alpine and adaptive) to help train our trainers. Kathy is the Executive Director of AbilityPlus and resides in Waterville Valley , NH . AbilityPlus also has adaptive programs at Attitash, Gunstock and Bretton Woods in NH, Mount Snow and Stowe in VT, and Wachusett Mt and Nashoba Valley in MA. She has been attending the Hartford Ski Spectacular (the largest annual adaptive training for instructors) in Breckenridge for approximately 20 years, many times as a clinic leader. For three of those years, she organized the whole event for Disabled Sports USA. This year Kathy coordinated the Learn to Ski program for over 65 wounded soldiers. She has been teaching skiing for over 25 years, initially as an alpine instructor, then as an adaptive instructor, and has taught adaptive exclusively since 1991. The last time she skied in Montana was in 2004 at the U.S. Disabled National Championships.
Eagle Mount-Bozeman's goal in providing this clinic was twofold; to prepare our team of volunteer clinicians to be better clinicians, and to introduce Big Sky residents to working with visually impaired skiers, a specific population in which we have witnessed some growth. Our clinic topics included: let learning happen (working in teams for our ski skills and our teaching skills), how to be a better clinician, no wedge here (going straight to parallel), and assessment and guiding techniques.
With the number of visually impaired skiers growing, we needed an opportunity to practice our guiding skills. Guiding the visually impaired requires advanced ski skills, total focus, and an ability to be quick thinking and level-headed. Most guides find this type of skiing very challenging, and as a result, rewarding and energizing. Half of our crew worked as guides while the other half skied with their eyes closed to test our skills and our nerves in a safe learning environment. As instructors, this practice reminded us of how important it is to put ourselves in the students' position to better understand their experience.
Eagle Mount-Bozeman clinicians train approximately 200 volunteers to teach ski skills to individuals with physical and developmental disabilities. During this clinic, we looked at our core curriculum and how we can do a better job with skill blending to make the most of our time. While warming up, we also worked on sharpening our assessment skills while “getting into the heads of our students” by mimicking their every move down the mountain. Kathy gave our crew drills that crossed over between the four skills in skiing and by giving visual, kinesthetic and auditory demos.
Eagle Mount's motto is always safety, fun and learning. Kathy did a great job of making learning 100% fun. We even fit in a tram ride to Lone Peak to show off our beautiful home to our clinician. Since we were already there, we figured a run in the Liberty Bowl could fit under FUN and skiing improvement.
Fifteen individuals benefited directly from this high caliber training, but the effects will reach our volunteers and our students. Thank you to the Ken Breon Fund and PSIA for your support of our continuing education.
For more information about the Eagle Mount nearest you, please visit their website or call.
Bozeman – www.eaglemount.org or 586-1781
Billings – www.eaglemountbillings.org or 245-5422
Great Falls – www.eaglemount.net or 454-1449
Helena – 227-8689