Even Arizona has Adaptive Skiing

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PHOTO: A photo of two men wearing snow gear. Both men are strapped to skis and have ski poles. On man, wears black pants, a red jacket and an orange sign on his chest that reads "visually impaired." The man wears a black helmet, sunglasses and has a microphone that is pointed near his mouth so that he can communicate with his instructor.  Behind that man is a younger man, wearing black pants, a blue jacket, and an orange sign that reads "guide." The man has his arms spread out and wears a wide smile on his face. The two men are posing near the bottom of a snow-filled mountain.

Even Arizona has Adaptive Skiing

Quick guide to skiing in the Southwest

Story by Cirpiano Chayrez
Photo courtesy of Gina Schuh and Flagstaff Adaptive Sports

When Alex Davenport isn’t spending his summers in Portillo, Chile sharpening his skiing skills in the Andes, he’s a rather busy man back in Arizona.

After getting out of the Marine Corps in 2011, Davenport moved to Flagstaff, Arizona and attended Northern Arizona University (NAU). During his stint at NAU, Davenport made friends with employees of a local ski resort, where he eventually taught ski lessons.

Davenport had taught people of all ages how to ski, but he never gave an adaptive lesson to somebody with a disability before—that is until the opportunity presented itself.

“That lesson changed the course of my life forever,” Davenport said. “And that was kind of the beginning of our adaptive program; it was just with one lesson.”

That program he’s referring to is Skiable, an event held every year at the Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff, where kids with disabilities learn how to ski. In its first year of existence in 2011, Skiable saw just 12 participants.

In 2018, that number leaped to 750 lessons, and over 1000 are expected to be taught at the next event in November.


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The exponential growth and popularity of Skiable has led Davenport to recruit instructors from outside organizations—such as Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center in Colorado—just to meet the demand of adaptive lessons.

“It’s a wonderful event. It fills up very quickly each year,” Davenport said. “And we’re really looking forward to having it again this upcoming season.”

Teaching someone who has never skied how to safely reach the bottom of a mountain is a task of its own. But teaching someone who may be partially blind or have a physical disability to do the same thing? Where do you even start?

According to Davenport, it’s a simple process that starts with an email to his staff, introducing themselves to Davenport and the organization. Afterward, Davenport, or a member of his staff, sends a form back to the student or parents to get more information about what he or she would like to accomplish at Skiable.

That introduction provides enough information to start assessing what adaptive equipment will be needed and to pair the student with a compatible instructor.

Finding that compatibility between an instructor and a student with a visual impairment is especially crucial. “It’s actually one of my favorite lessons to teach,” Davenport said.

Davenport went on to explain there are three main ways people learn: visually, auditorily or kinesthetically. When it comes to someone with a visual impairment, Davenport stressed the importance of the instructor being well-versed in the auditory and kinesthetic portion of the lesson.

Over the last nine years, Davenport has put together a widely successful program that has helped hundreds, if not thousands, of kids learn that anything can be accomplished—whether you have a disability or not.

Gina Schuh, a C5 quadriplegic, has skied with Davenport many times since her injury.  “Sit-skiing is exhilarating and hands-down the most fun I’ve had since becoming a wheelchair-user.”

Schuh liked the program so much she helped Davenport raise funds to buy another sit-ski.

If you are looking to book your next snow getaway, check out our "Can't Miss List" down below.

  1. Bear Mountain, California: http://usarc.org
  2. Lake Tahoe, California: http://achievetahoe.org/
  3. Mammoth Mountain, California: Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra
  4. Beaver Creek, Colorado: https://www.beavercreek.com/plan-your-trip/ski-and-ride-lessons/category/adaptive.aspx
  5. Breckenridge and Winter Park, Colorado: The Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center Adaptive Ski & Ride School
  6. Challenge Aspen At Snowmass, Colorado: Challenge Aspen
  7. Crested Butte, Colorado: Adaptive Sport Center 
  8. Eldora, Colorado: Eldora Ski Resort
  9. Keystone, Colorado: Keystone Adaptive Center/
  10. Steamboat Springs, Colorado: https://steamboatstars.com/
  11. Telluride, Colorado: https://tellurideadaptivesports.org/
  12. Higher Ground, Idaho: Higher Ground
  13. Ski Apache Adaptive Sports, New Mexico: http://skiapacheadaptivesports.com/
  14. Ski Santa Fe and Albuquerque: https://adaptivesportsprogram.org/
  15. Beaver Mountain in Logan, UT: http://www.cgadventures.org
  16. Deer Valley Ski Resort, Utah: National Ability Center 
  17. Snowbasin Resort in Huntsville, Utah: Snow Basin Adaptive Sports 
  18. Snowbird Ski Resort: www.wasatchadaptivesports.org
  19. Sundance Mountain Resort: www.wasatchadaptivesports.org

Did we miss one? Please let us know by emailing our editor at Editor@Ability360.org.

Cipriano Chayrez

Cipriano Chayrez

Writer

Cipriano Chayrez Jr. (C.J.) is a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. His love for all Arizona sports teams began in 2008, and he has been living with the consequences ever since.


Read more by Cipriano Chayrez.

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