Adaptive sports program reaches capacity

ASSP LOOKS TO EXPAND TO YEAR-ROUND ACTIVITIES

Celebrating the season: Adaptive Sports at Sun Peaks' students and instructors are all smiles after the year-end festival. - Photo by Shannon Gillis
Celebrating the season: Adaptive Sports at Sun Peaks’ students and instructors are all smiles after the year-end festival. – Photo by Shannon Gillis

Adaptive Sports at Sun Peaks (ASSP) has wrapped up their busiest season yet and are already looking to improve the program moving forward.

The ski program was at capacity with 35 regular students as well as visitors coming from as far away as Australia to take lessons with ASSP instructors.

“We had to turn people away because we had so many lessons booked,” said ASSP board member Veronica Connors. “That of course means we need more instructors. We don’t want to turn people away. We don’t enjoy doing that at all.”

ASSP had more than 50 instructors this season, which accounted for 75 per cent retention, but with an increased demand they will be looking for more volunteers throughout the spring, summer and fall. This season, instructors and people helping behind the scenes accounted for more than 5,000 volunteer hours, according to Connors.

“We have just finished making a promotional video… to use as raising awareness for the program that’s here, raising funds, engaging people, recruiting more instructors and people involved as off-snow volunteers, and certainly getting the awareness to the schools as well,” Connors said.

ASSP also trained more guides for visually impaired skiers this season, which along with newer technology of using headsets to communicate, resulted in more blind skiers coming to Sun Peaks.

“For me as a blind skier it’s opened up the window of when I can ski,” instructor Lisa Bentz said of using the headsets. “Before we would ski with a beeper on the guide and the beeper would be in front (of me), so you could ski as long as there’s no wind, as long as there’s no ice, not a lot of conditions. The days that were available for me to ski as a blind person were restricted to that, whereas now with the headsets we can go anytime.”

“Word has certainly spread that this is a destination resort for visually impaired skiers,” Connors said. “They come from all over to ski with us.”

That of course means we need more instructors. We don’t want to turn people away. We don’t enjoy doing that at all.

The season wrapped up on April 3 with the ASSP winter festival, which celebrated the positive impact of the ski season and the year’s progression of those involved.

“It’s a part of the day and the year where you can bank those amazing feelings,” Bentz said. “With all the opportunities that life presents you as a disabled person to be frustrated, the skiing just fills this huge bank of joy and capacity, it’s quite something. I can’t say enough about it.”

“The students often say that they no longer feel different, they’re just like everybody else. They’re out there skiing,” Connors added.

ASSP wants to expand their mandate of making the mountain accessible to all beyond skiing with more activities in both winter and summer months.

“That’s our next vision: mountain biking, paddle boarding and hiking,” Connors said. “Also in our winter season to offer a variety of snow experiences, such as cross country, perhaps sledge hockey with our new rink or snowshoeing.”

These are activities that people with disabilities are regularly doing in Sun Peaks, but ASSP wants to adopt it as part of its programming.

“We really focus on enabling people with a disability,” Bentz said. “We don’t look at the disability, we just look at enabling what they’ve got.”

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