At the end of January there will be a six-week program that teaches people with disabilities how to ski at the Kimberley ski hill.
Allan Watson is an instructor with the Canadian Association of Disabled Skiers (CADS) and organized the program.
Watson works with people with both physical and cognitive disabilities. He noted there is both Paralympic and Special Olympic training — they deal more with Paralympic skiers.
“So people with MS, or who don’t have function with their legs, or don’t have legs, or are missing legs or arms, or paraplegics,” Watson said. “We have the equipment to help them — either sit ski or what we call three track — one leg and two arms — and four track. Then we have the visually impaired skiers, so people with different levels of blindness. We teach them to ski as well.”
He said they do deal with a bit of the Autism spectrum as well, but not as much with Downs Syndrome.
“We can do a little bit with that,” he said.
Watson noted the former long-time director of the snow school in Kimberley was one of the key players in developing the CADS program in Canada.
Watson himself grew up in Cranbrook, then moved away. About 10 years ago he moved back. He was teaching at the ski hill and moved into the CADS training and certification.
“My wife has MS,” he said. “I learned how to do the sit ski with my wife. Since then I’ve been doing my level 1, level 2 and level 3. I teach all of it.”
The program to train disabled skiers used to be part of the ski school on a limited basis.
“School groups would come up on the Wednesday and we’d take the kids out – the special needs kids — and that was kind of the end of it. We never had an ongoing program,” he said. “Other ski hills had an ongoing program. They’d have training sessions for six weeks or eight weeks and you’d learn how to do it on your own over time. So after two or three seasons you could ski by yourself.”
Two years ago Watson took the program out of the ski school and began work on it. He four that the program could be more affordable, and this year he decided he wanted to take it up another notch.
“This year I’ve got probably five instructors and a few volunteers, so now we can actually have a real program,” he said.
They are all ready for the start date and just need the students.
We’re hoping to start in the last week of January and run it for six weeks,” he said. “That will be it for the season.”
The program is all volunteer. They also received some special pricing from RCR to run the program on Sunday afternoons, which he said includes the lift ticket and rental gear.
Watson said he started skiing when he was five and has been involved in snow sports since.
“As far as I know I’ve always skied,” he said.
“We’re right now looking for students,” he said. They can come in, whatever disability doesn’t matter. If they want to just come out and try it one time, I’m good with that too. If someone has done it before and just wants to come try it, we’re good with that as well.”
To sign up or get more information call Watson at 250-426-6435.