Skiing for Blephros

Posted by Jaelline Jaffe , Dec 14,2001,04:48   Archive
Just thought I'd share some info with any of you who either used to ski or would like to learn. When one of my friends said I should go skiing with her last season, I couldn't imagine how I'd do such a thing -- glare, eyes closing, holding up an eyelid with one hand ... what about those poles?!

Well, she has a different kind of eye problem, some rare congenital disorder, and she has been skiing (and bike riding and kayaking) for years. She goes with an organization called DSUSA (Disabled Sports USA). There are two chapters in So.Calif - the Unrecables in LA and the Achievers in OC. Membership is very inexpensive (I think it was less than $40 for the year). The groups have volunteer instructors. We arranged carpools to get up to Mammoth (no way can I drive that far anymore) and got rooms as a group in a condo (also very inexpensive). Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ski resorts have to provide for all sorts of people with special needs. So it turns out there are actually a few perks to this condition!

I had my own private instructor and TWO shadows (people who skiied behind us to keep other people away). The instruction and full day lift tickets for the weekend were all included, and I got half price on renting all the equipment the first time I went, and free rental the next time! Had a great time, once I got used to wearing a brightly colored bib - the LA club's blue bibs say "Disabled Skier" kind of hidden in a lot of other writing. The OC bibs are bright orange with BIG letters that say BLIND SKIIER. Now THAT was the hardest part ... took my breath away, but once the bib was on, I couldn't see it, so it didn't matter -- must have been a shock to some of the other skiiers on the mountain, tho! Surprisingly, I found that my eyes actually stayed open most of the time I was moving (stark raving terror must do wonders for the neurological system)! As soon as I stopped, they closed.

It was really a terrific experience, and I actually cried everytime I started to thank my instructors -- I was so touched by their generosity in helping me to be there. In exchange, they get free lift tickets and special clinics to teach them to work with all sorts of handicaps, but mostly they are really good skiiers who just want to share the joy of skiing with others.

DSUSA also has other sporting activities during the year. I am really bummed that I can't go skiing again this year because of an elbow injury that will probably require surgery, but I sure hope to be back there next year.

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