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Skiing Blind?

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: Judy Prociuk has been a member of the Saskatoon Blind Skiers since the group's inception. She is also a member of the NFB:AE, and lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Every winter as the snow begins to fall, avid skiers begin preparing their equipment and checking out their winter outfits in anticipation of a long and rewarding skiing season. In Saskatoon, for over twenty years, a group of about 20 blind and vision-impaired people have the same thoughts.

The Saskatoon Blind Skiers, who are affiliates of the Saskatoon Nordic ski club have been enjoying both recreational and competitive skiing in and around Saskatoon for as long as some members can remember. Many of the members, who began losing their sight and also those who had never had sight, thought it was preposterous that blind persons could ski. They would say, " I can't ski, I can't see." However, after becoming involved with the blind skiers, many of these people have become the greatest advocates of blind skiing.

Skiing as a blind or vision impaired skier is not much different than skiing as a sighted skier. Cross-country skiers usually ski on well-groomed trails, which can be in parks, golf courses, or any place people enjoy skiing. Blind skiers, depending on their degree of vision, usually ski with a guide who may ski beside them or ahead or behind them. Where the guide skis is entirely dependent on the skier and how comfortable he or she is with their guide.

An annual event that blind skiers participate in each winter is Ski for Light Canada. This is a recreational/competitive event that takes place annually, rotating among the three western provinces of BC, Alberta & Saskatchewan. This is an event where blind and vision-impaired skiers are matched with a sighted guide and can participate on an equal basis with other skiers.

Blind skiers can confidently ski beside their sighted guide on double tracks, as the guide describes the terrain. Blind and vision-impaired skiers can glide over the hills and valleys with their guide explaining what they can expect as they ski along.

Skiing is a wonderful source of exercise and it affords blind and vision impaired skiers the opportunity to explore the pristine wilderness at some of the beautiful skiing areas in western Canada.

Ski for light Canada usually attracts as many as fifty blind and vision impaired skiers every year, with skiers attending from the western Canadian provinces as well as some from Ontario. Every year a substantial contingent of skiers always attends from various points in the United States. On some occasions skiers have even traveled from the U.K., as well as other European countries and a lone skier from Australia has attended on several occasions.