Annual Adaptive Ski Week successfully completes 36th year

January 30, 2017

Adaptive Ski Week participants are used to pushing against the odds, even if that means skiing in warmer-than-usual North Carolina winter temperatures.

For the 36th year starting on Monday, January 16, skiers—students and teachers alike—gathered at Beech Mountain Resort to do what they love. 

Beech Mountain Resort chapter, led by Disabled Sports USA, is the oldest clinic in the program’s history, according to the Beech Mountain Resort website. The event brings participants from all over the Southeast region including: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida.

This year, participant’s ages ranged from 4 to over 70 with a variety of diagnoses including: brain and spinal injured, amputees, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, developmental delayed, spinal muscular atrophy, multiple sclerosis, visually impaired, and a whole host of other neurological and orthopedic challenges, according to a release provided by DS USA.

In addition to instructors provided by the DS USA and its coordinator, the Patricia Neal Innovative Recreation Cooperative Program, students and leaders from Lees-McRae College lent a helping hand to ensure the event was executed smoothly.

Women from Delta Zeta Nu, a social and community service based sorority, assisted program leaders over the duration of the week cleaning sleds packed with snow and slush—a result brought on by the unusually warm mountain weather.

The sorority also acted as a “welcome committee” to anyone new or returning to the program, said Regional Director for outdoor adventure non-profit for the physically disabled Catalyst Sports and Physical Education Instructor at Lees-McRae College Dee Thomas.

Natalie Burns, a Lees-McRae alumna who graduated in 2009, first volunteered with the program on Beech Mountain several years ago as a student, but has since turned it into a career. She has worked with adaptive skiers throughout the United States and says she is humbled by each and every student she interacts with.

“I learn all the time,” Burns said. She equated her experiences with each student to a snowflake–unique in their needs and always changing.

Because of her students’ physiological and mental disabilities, she has to assess the requirements and safety strategies each time they make a run down the slopes. Whether it is a monoski, biski or slider, Burns and her fellow instructors follow along close by, if not holding on behind, guiding their students and ensuring their safety.

“It is dangerous what we do,” she said, but with the right equipment and training, almost anyone can pursue their passion.

The motto of the DS USA program is, “If I can do this, I can do anything.”

And for Lees-McRae volunteers, students, instructors and their family and friends, that is a motto that can ring true for all.

Media Contact:

Nina Mastandrea  |  Content Manager
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Natalie Burns ’09 and Dee Thomas
Delta Zeta Nu members
Adaptive ski participants