Blind skiers get some help hitting the trail | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Blind skiers get some help hitting the trail

Christine Stanley

Ryan Salm / Sierra Sun / Jim Stratton and Frank Welte ski together during the Ski for Light weekend at Tahoe Donner Cross Country Center.

TRUCKEE – Once a year at the cross-country center in Tahoe Donner, a group of nearly 50 people – some longtime friends, some strangers – gathers for a weekend of skiing, camaraderie and blind faith.

Sierra Regional Ski for Light, a nonprofit program that connects blind skiers and snowshoers with sighted guides, has been holding its annual three-day event in Tahoe Donner for 14 years. Visually impaired participants from across the state come to better their skills while others strap on a pair of skis for the first time.

“The guide is giving information to the skier all the time, and the skier must give constant feedback,” said Vicki Post, Ski for Light president. “Out of that process you learn a tremendous amount about building partnerships.”

Post, who has been blind since birth, has been cross country skiing with friends for nearly two decades and became involved with Ski for Light International, the mother program, just six years ago.

She said that participating in groups for the blind is not something she usually gravitates toward, but that Ski for Light International instills awareness, independence and freedom in its skiers, and sends a reminder to the public that “blind people can get out there and do things.”

There were 21 visually impaired participants at last weekend’s event, and more than 30 guides and volunteers, a few of whom were from Truckee.

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“Training was a little bit scary because you have to be right-on all the time,” said Truckee resident Edie Lott. “Someone is putting so much faith in your hands.”

Lott and her husband, Denny, received their guide training in January, and participated in a one-day event in February to prepare for this weekend.

“Once we went out on the snow, I was totally hooked. It started with a casual interest, but I was so stoked by the time (the skiers) left that I can’t wait until next year to do it again,” Edie Lott said.

SRSFL is looking for new volunteers and participants. Call Bill Covington at (916) 645-0727.

How it started

The concept for Ski for Light was fostered in Norway in the 1960s by a group of visually impaired skiers involved in a program called the Knight’s Race. One of the Norwegian participants, Olav Pedersen, moved to Breckenridge Colo. and launched his U.S. version, Race for Light, in 1975.

Sierra Regional Ski for Light was founded in 1993 by SFL participant Betsy Rowell. Rowell, a partially blind resident of Sacramento, has been helping to organizing three noncompetitive events each season since then.