Taylor Morefield skiied the Colorado mountains for the first time last February. Her goal: work up to one of the more challenging trails.
“It was tons of fun. I had snow flying in my face,” she said. “It was an amazing experience.”
Even falling was fun, Taylor said.
It was Allison Potts’ first time on skis, but skiing was something she’d wanted to try for some time because it looked like fun.
It was difficult at first, Allison said.
“When I turned, it was really hard to keep my skis where I wanted to go,” she said. “(The instructors) point to which foot they want me to move which way, so I know which ski to move and which ski to not move.”
She started on the bunny hill, but she’s proud she moved on and was able to follow her instructors’ directions for how they wanted her to move down the mountain.
The two girls skiied at Winter Park Resort, thanks to the Champaign Ski Club. They were the first two participants in a program the ski club began last year called “Anyone Can Ski with CSC.” It offers a paid ski trip for young people with disabilities to learn how to ski at the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) at Winter Park.
Marvin Bell, the ski club’s trip coordinator, volunteers at NSCD, beginning in 2009. It gets him a free lift ticket for the day, and he likes meeting the kids and working with them.
“It’s the smiles you get and being able to help the kids do something they wouldn’t be able to do unless you helped them,” he said.
Ski club members visited NSCD on a trip to Winter Park, then decided to raise money to send one skiier and a guardian there last winter. They raised enough money to send two, and Taylor and Allison were chosen.
They took a train to Winter Park, were fitted with skis and then spent three days on the mountain with NSCD instructors.
The center works with people with a wide variety of disabilities. Taylor, 15, and a sophomore at Mahomet-Seymour High School, is a triplet with cerebral palsy that mostly affects her legs. She uses a wheelchair or crutches. She skiied on a “sit ski,” which is a seat on top of either one or two skis.
Allison, 12, and a seventh-grader at Jefferson Middle School, has a chromosome disorder that resulted in delayed motor skills and poor muscle tone. She tires easily, and she probably wouldn’t have had the stamina to ski at a younger age, said her father, Mike Potts, who skiied with her at Winter Park.
“I think this came at a perfect time in her life,” Potts said. “She had a great time. She did learn how to ski. She skiied beautifully by herself.
“All of her instructors were fantastic,” he continued. “They were very in tune with these kids and adults, and patient, and there were lots of good tips.”
Taylor had skiied on a bi-ski (with two skis) once before, but she wanted to learn to ski on a mono-ski (with one ski) in Colorado.
“You have to hold yourself up, because all your weight is on one ski,” she said. “My ski is relatively wide, but it’s still really difficult. It’s a lot of upper-body coordination and a lot of hard work, but it’s definitely worth it.”
Bell was along on the February trip, and he was impressed with their efforts.
“They really wanted to try and wanted to learn,” he said. “They were just fun to be with.”
“I like (skiing) because it gives me the freedom that everybody else has in a different form,” Taylor said. “You can play wheelchair basketball, you can do wheelchair track, which I do. But when you ski, you’re the same speed as everyone else, so you are a complete equal. If you get good enough, you can ski with anybody you want to -- disabled, able-bodied, blind, anyone you want to.”
The Champaign Ski Club hopes to send two more skiiers to Winter Park this winter through its “Anyone Can Ski with CSC” program. It will begin selling raffle tickets Thursday to raise money for the trip. Raffle tickets are $20 each and the top prize is $1,000 credit toward a ski trip with the club. Other raffle prizes are Wild Country gift cards in the amounts of $300, $200 and three $100 cards.
To find out more about the program or buy a raffle ticket, see the club’s website at www.champaignskiclub.org, or e-mail Marvin Bell at email@example.com. The club will have applications for the Anyone Can Ski program available in October.
Photos below: Taylor Morefield on her sit ski, with an instructor from the National Sports Center for the Disabled at Winter Park Resort in Colorado; Allison Potts (in pink) with her ski instructor at Winter Park.