Silver Creek Resort and Snowshoe Mountain Resort both offer an array of skiing and snowboarding opportunities for outdoor adventurers – young and old. With the Adaptive Sports Program, the slopes are open to everyone, including individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities.
The program began in 1983 and is directed by David Begg – a man who learned how to ski after he lost his leg.
“I got injured 38 years ago,” Begg said. “I lost my leg above the knee. I learned to ski the following year and slowly began working with it. A doctor where I was rehabbing at was a big skier and the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh had a little program where they met once a week and had some volunteers come out. I gave it a shot not thinking too much of it – turned out that it was really kind of life changing for me and in several ways, it gave me back a lot of the senses of mobility that I had kind of lost.”
Begg took to the snow like a fish to water and soon joined the team at the Adaptive Ski Program at Silver Creek Resort.
“It’s just about everything on the physical spectrum – amputees, spinal cord injuries, children with paralysis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida,” Begg said. “We do a lot with visual impaired and blind skiers. A lot of what we’re doing now is children on the autism spectrum, which accounts for probably thirty percent of what we’ll do during a season.”
While the program is for people of all ages, Begg said they serve more children than adults.
“I think the kids are outnumbering the adults a little bit,” he said. “We see more people with their children, looking for something that they can get everybody involved in together as a family, which is often difficult when you have a child with special needs. It’s not uncommon to see a family that might have two children or even three with special needs.”
The program is very family oriented and has even drawn participants to become instructors. Dunmore resident – by way of Charleston – Nathan Price first heard about the program after his father, Jerry, suffered a stroke.
When they lived in Charleston, the father and son would travel to Snowshoe on a yearly basis to ski and Jerry didn’t let his medical impairments stop him.
“He had his stroke – it paralyzed the right side of his body,” Nathan said. “No movement with the right arm or right leg. He walks with a brace. Then one of my friends told me about this place and we came, and he skied here a few years. I started asking some questions and Dave offered me a job.”
Nathan didn’t anticipate turning his hobby into a profession, but after experiencing the program, he knew he found where he belonged.
“It’s a great program to be involved in,” he said. “It’s very rewarding. Pretty much anybody can come hook up with this program and be able to go out and ski. That’s pretty neat to me.”
Nathan was also happy to see that the program gave his father the means to continue his love of outdoor activities.
“It took a few years before he was able to get back out physically, with his strength and things,” Nathan said. “Once he started, he absolutely loved it. He’s big into the outdoors.”
The program also has a special War Fighter Sports division where it focuses on special weekends for soldiers with physical and cognitive disabilities. This weekend, 17 families will enjoy the War Fighter Sports Winter Camp.
“This will be the eighth winter camp we’ve done,” Begg said. “I’m overwhelmed with people who want to return and I’ve kind of had to turn into a bad guy to say to them, ‘after you’ve been a time or two, I kind of need to ask you to step back to let somebody else come in.’ We’ve basically been going with all new families and the event’s extremely popular because the soldiers can bring their immediate families.”
Whether it’s with soldiers, children or adults with disabilities, Begg said his main goal is to give them an activity they can do with their families anytime during the season.
“One of the goals behind all this is to introduce them to fitness activities that they can participate in as a family at some point in time and they don’t need a special event,” he said. “If we can get everybody to where they’re skiing or snowboarding, then they don’t need a special event to go to.”
The program has five full-time winter staff, including Begg and around 25 volunteers who work weekends and holidays. The staff has special ongoing training to ensure they are prepared to work with individuals, no matter the disability.
“The process is always ongoing because there’s so many disabilities that we work with and a certain level of expertise,” Begg said. “We’ve done seminars in the past where we’ve had experts come in on different fields like sign language. We’ve had the director of the autism center at Marshall University come in and do a seminar for us.”
The Adaptive Sports Program partnered with the Challenged Athletes of West Virginia to provide lessons in three and four track skiing, mono and bi-ski, blind and hearing impaired, developmental disabilities and more.
For more information, visit www.snowshoemtn.com/plan-your-trip/ski-and-snowboard-school/adaptive-sports-program.aspx
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org