A ski program based at Mission Ridge, near Regina, helps people with disabilities take to the slopes by using adapted gear.
The Regina Alpine Adaptive Ski Program's mission is for everyone — no matter what their ability — to be able to enjoy the pleasures of downhill skiing.
With the help of specially trained instructors, the program brings outdoor sports fun to people who may otherwise not have the opportunity. The program is flexible and can work with many different disabilities including cerebral palsy, spina bifida, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, visual impairment and amputations.
Gord Poulton got involved with the group after his son was severely injured in a skiing accident in 2002.
"[He] actually broke his back," Poulton said, recalling how his son went from being active to in a wheelchair.
Having the opportunity to continue skiing after the injury was instrumental to his son's recovery, Poulton said.
"To regain some of the connections he had with the outdoors — the ability to strive and excel — gave him self-esteem and confidence in going forward in everything he had to face and continues to face," Poulton said.
Poulton said one element of the program he likes is how participants can go skiing with anyone.
"It's the sense of freedom that I think the individuals get to feel," he said. "Most wheelchair sports or disabled sports are done either in a wheelchair or some sort of piece of equipment that makes all their friends come into that piece of equipment. With adaptive skiing it's basically just going skiing with your friends."
Poulton said the program works with people to suit their individual circumstances.
"For example, one of our skiers is blind and you can't compare one blind person with another blind person," he explained. "It's that ability to adapt which makes our program so wonderful."
Competitive sit-skier Kurt Oatway got his start in the sport with the Regina Alpine Adaptive Program in 2010. Oatway recently won gold in a World Cup event in the sport in Slovenia.
Over the weekend, at Mission Ridge, participants in the program competed in the SaskTel Challenge Cup.
The event was open to all people, of all skill levels and abilities, who enjoy downhill skiing.