Thanks to the STRIDE Adaptive Sports program teaming up with Yawgoo Valley in Exeter, more people with disabilities can learn to ski independently at Rhode Island’s only ski area. According to Mary Ellen Whitney, STRIDE’s founder and CEO in West Sand Lake, New York, adaptive skiing uses specialized equipment and training to allow people with disabilities to experience the benefits of skiing. “Skiing and snowboarding provide a sense of freedom that is difficult to duplicate in other sports,” Whitney notes. “Skiing is a fantastic sport for people with physical disabilities or visual impairments in that it helps to develop balance, fitness, confidence, motivation, and social skills. Simply put – skiing is skiing!”
Yawgoo Valley previously provided private one-hour lessons for skiers with special
needs, but the program was limited. The arrival in Rhode Island of two STRIDE-qualified instructors – Scott Frankel and Christina Skeels – will let Yawgoo offer the STRIDE program, which features two-and-one-half- hour lessons on weekends. The program will expand quickly beyond just two instructors, Frankel points out “We’re fortunate that there are a lot of people from Yawgoo who are PSIA (Professional Ski Instructor Association) certified,” he says. “They know the teaching method and now all we need to do is teach them about the disabilities and the things we use to adapt to people’s disabilities. It won’t take long for us to get the other instructors up and running.”
According to STRIDE’s website, the program will run weekends from January to March with morning and afternoon sessions. Each adaptive lesson costs $85 and in- cludes private instruction, equipment, and a lift ticket. An additional lift ticket for one person accompanying the student costs $50. Pre-registration is required; contact Patti Davis at Yawgoo (401-294-3802) for details and reservations.
Frankel has been volunteering with STRIDE for 14 years and he emphasizes it’s not just the new skiers who benefit, especially when young people take to the slopes for the first time. “I can’t convey the passion of the volunteers and the satisfaction they get at the end of each lesson and day,” he shares. “You let this child realize they could do things that their classmates can do. Sometimes you see the tears in the parents’ eyes as they’re watching their kids.”