Skiers Thrive Despite Disabilities

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NORTHSTAR, CA-- As Christmas approaches, people from all over the region will flock to Sierra resorts for their chance at a little winter fun. It won't be just your average skiers and snowboarders, but also people with disabilities you'd normally think might keep them off the hill and it's all due to the Tahoe-based Disabled Sports U.S.A. Far West, making what what would seem to be the impossible...possible.

Monday was the second day on the hill for Jack; his first was only Sunday. The 9-year-old is autistic. He has trouble learning and receiving instructions, two things his parents thought would keep him from becoming a skier.

"We are a family that likes to ski, but Jack has never been able to do it before we heard about the program," said Kristen Meckel, Jack's mom.

The program Jack's mom speaks of is Disabled Sports U.S.A, a Tahoe-based ski school for people with mental and physical disabilities.

"We have adaptive equipment and professional instructors that can help overcome some of these disabilities and get folks out enjoying the great mountain experience," said Bill Bowness, Technical Director of DSUSAFW.

Monday morning instructor Loren tried a hula hoop and a pole before finding tethers were the best tool for jack.

Students always have an instructor and a volunteer to help them out, if not physically then mentally.

"We can talk all day about technique and the physics of skiing and strategies, but really what it boils down to is getting your head into it," said Loren Rupp, Jack's Instructor

For jack it was constant words of encouragement and fuzzy ball.

"That's where you see the grins, where you see the a-ha moments that as an instructor really make what we do so special," said Bowness.

It's rewarding for instructors, but for parents like Kristen and John Meckel, seeing their son do the impossible is an experience that can't be beat.

"It makes me smile, I am very happy to see him be able to do that," said John Meckel.

For Jack the instruction only lasts a few days, but the experience once he is able to ski with his family will last a lifetime.

It costs more than 300 dollars for Disabled Sports to put on a lesson, but the program is highly subsidized by donors so students only have to pay about 80 dollars to take part.

The program is offered at Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley, and Northstar..