Overcoming obstacles to outdoor fun | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Overcoming obstacles to outdoor fun

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily TribuneKatie Owen, from Chico, glides past instructor Trae Bane during her lesson Tuesday at Tahoe Adaptive Ski School at Alpine Meadows.

TAHOE CITY — Lacking strength in her feet and hands because of a brain injury, Katie Owen flexed like a tree in the wind and squatted inward like a mushroom to carve turns down the slope.

“Good job, excellent job, Katie,” said Trae Bane, an instructor at the Tahoe Adaptive Ski School.

Earlier, Bane helped the 21-year-old Chico woman wiggle into her ski gloves and snap into her bindings.

Bane teaches disabled children and adults at the adaptive clinic, a nonprofit volunteer-driven organization based at Alpine Meadows Ski Resort for the last 20 years.

This year, for the first time, Alpine will donate money raised from its Hospitality Games and Corporate Ski Challenge to the adaptive ski school, which relies on donations for about half of its $1.5 million budget.

“For the past five years it has been going to a juvenile diabetes research foundation, the national chapter,” said Rachael Woods, resort spokeswoman. “But we want to find something more local and tangible so people … can see where the money is going and the athletes that it supports.”

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Lessons at the school last more than two hours and include the use of expensive equipment. With the donations, the school is able offer private lessons for $50 while keeping its shelves stocked with cutting edge adaptive equipment.

Rose Vasquez, a Bay Area resident, raved about the school and what it has provided for her 5-year-old son, Alex, who is autistic. Vasquez brings Alex to the school once a month.

“It’s the one thing he gets to be really good at when so many things are really hard for him,” Vasquez said. “As far as he’s concerned, he is in training for the Olympics.”

What’s key about the school, she says, is the instructors’ understanding of a range of disabilities.

“The people here are wonderful,” Vasquez said. “I was hovering around waiting for things to fall apart and they never did. It’s nice to be somewhere where you know he’s going to be accepted.”

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com