Visually-impaired Calgarians try cross-country skiing for the 1st time
Warm weather, deep snow made for a beautiful day for skiing
Members of Calgary's visually-impaired community enjoyed a beautiful day for cross-country skiing at Shaganappi Golf Course on Saturday.
The Alberta Sports and Recreation Association for the Blind partnered with the Calgary Ski Club to give blind and visually-impaired people the chance to try the sport.
Zach Abdalla, 11, has skated, paddleboarded, played soccer, gone rock climbing and canoed — now he can add cross-country skiing to the list.
"I can't tie my shoes," Abdalla said. "I do all those things, but my mom ties any ties."
Abdalla has had multiple eye-surgeries. He said the indented tracks have just enough shadow that he can faintly see them against the bright snow.
"Basically if I didn't have the visor and the glasses on, it would just be overwhelmingly bright, like boom, light," he said.
Deb Hamilton, a Calgary Ski Club coach, said learning how to adapt her coaching techniques to not rely on visual cues was a learning experience. She said the skiers caught on quick.
"Zach is doing fantastic, I'm really impressed. He's catching on really quickly, he's got a good glide, he's got confidence and I think he's having fun," Hamilton said.
The deep late-season snow meant that the new skiers could try out the sport on a mostly flat and wide trail, followed by a slight downhill slope at the end.
"I think more of us should come out and help people experience something we love so much and open up a whole new world for people that maybe have never tried it because of a disability," Hamilton said.
Justine Milman, mother to 7-year-old Neveah, said the opportunity for her daughter to try the sport was amazing.
Neveah was born blind and has since gained enough sight to see colours and lights, Milman said.
"She just goes for it. Once she feels comfortable enough, you can't stop her," she said.
"She's so incredible, she really is."
Milman said as a single mom, she's grateful to ASRAB for giving her daughter the opportunity to try new things.
"What more can a mom ask for," she said.
With files from Terri Trembath