Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ski for Light Article

Disabilities not holding some back
By Mark WatsonBlack Hills Pioneer
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008 1:11 PM

Some can't walk. Some can't see. But they sure can ski. For 29 years now people with disabilities have traveled to the Black Hills to participate in the annual Ski for Light event. The event gives visually and physically impaired people the chance to ski, some for the first time.“I like the freedom of going down the mountain and the speed,” said Kristen McCosh, Ms. Wheelchair America 2008. “Sometimes when you are in a wheelchair there aren't a lot of physical activities that you can do, so it is really empowering to get out there on the slopes and feel like you are participating in an extreme sport so to speak.” The Boston, Mass., native has skied for 12 years now and loves it. She skied when she was younger, but at 15 years old she dove into the water and hit bottom, suffering a spinal cord injury. She is now a quadriplegic, and uses a wheelchair for mobility and in the winter, a bi-ski.“When I had my injury it was before the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). So a lot of things weren't accessible,” she said. “Skiing was one of the first things that I found that I really enjoyed that reminded me of my previous life. It is a really active sport. Sometimes when you are in a wheelchair there isn't a lot you can do, so this brought me back to my old life. I really enjoy it.”

Newer to the sport is Custer native Derek Turner. It is his second year skiing. He was introduced to a fellow Ski for Light participant Tara Knudson. The gregarious Sioux Falls native, like Turner, is blind and was tearing up the slopes at Terry Peak.“I think it is pretty neat and fun,” Turner said. “We've got to meet new people. I got to try new things. I got to go cross country skiing.”And it was the cross country skiing that he liked better. He said he found it more challenging since he had to stay on a track. The slopes of Terry Peak allowed him more freedom to move. Turner lost his sight when he was 16 and is still learning brail and orientation and mobility. Much of his success, he said, is due to his supportive family.

McCosh said she helps mentor people like Turner.“I do peer mentoring - so I talk to newly injured people every day,” she said. “As a peer mentor I tell them there are so many things to do - not to get discouraged.“My message is about empowerment more than inspiration. Inspiration can have a negative connotation to it. I really want to empower people,” she added. When she is not empowering people this week look for her on her bi-ski, tethered to her guide and loving the thrill of skiing.

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