'A taste of real skiing': Edmonton man, 87, hits the slopes for a final run

As Edmontonian Peter Winters nears the end of his life, the Canadian Association of Disabled Skiers gave him one more chance to hit the slopes.

Volunteers with Canadian Association of Disabled Skiers make wish come true for ailing senior

Peter Winters, 87, has prostate cancer and has stopped responding to treatment - but still regularly dreams at night that he's skiing. Volunteers with the Canadian Association of Disabled Skier helped make those dreams a reality. 0:57

Last weekend Peter Winters, 87, hit the slopes one last time.

Winters, who has prostate cancer and uses a walker, sat in a sit-ski tethered to a snowmobile as it pulled him up the slope at Rabbit Hill in Edmonton.

And then — down he came.

"Just being able to do it, it was just a taste of real skiing," said Winters, who spent more than four decades hurtling down mountains in Western Canada. "It's a sense of freedom and being at one with nature."

You have to go for it.- Peter Winters

Winters' return to the slopes was made possible by the Canadian Association of Disabled Skiers (CADS). The 40-year-old mostly volunteer-run organization uses various techniques and technology to allow people with a range of disabilities to ski and snowboard.

"We can get anyone down a mountain skiing and having fun," said ski school director Evan Romanow.

But the recent email from Winters' partner explaining his last wishes was unlike any other request. Romanow's response was immediate: "Of course, we'll figure something out."
Peter Winters, 87, recently hit the slopes for one final run with the help of the Canadian Association of Disabled Skiers. (Peter Evans)

It's been 15 years since Winters was last on skis. The retired business professor discovered the sport in 1969 when he transferred from Stanford to the University of Alberta, eventually becoming associate dean of the MBA program.

Winters recalled his first time on skis at Sunshine Mountain in Banff. The instructor put him in an advanced class.

"Scared the shit out of me," Winters chuckled. "They said, 'Just ski down there.' "

He was hooked.

'Not daunted by anything'

Over the next few decades, Winters and his partner Sid Carlson hit the slopes regularly. She was a former racer but Winters pushed her limits, as he fearlessly whooshed past, leading her into a steep bowl or off the groomed trails into the trees.
Peter Winters and a Canadian Association of Disabled Skiers volunteer on a recent run at Rabbit Hill.

"He was not daunted by anything," said Carlson, who recently asked Winters what was on his "bucket list."

Skiing, of course, answered the man who still dreams of skiing when he sleeps.

"I was just beside myself trying to figure out how to make that happen," said Carlson, noting her partner's frailty and balance problems.

Then a friend mentioned the Canadian Association of Disabled Skiers. Carlson was thrilled by the prompt response to her email from Romanow, who was "absolutely enthusiastic." And she was overjoyed by what happened next.

An 'amazing' day

Just three days later, two instructors held tethers attached to Winters' sit-ski to control the rate of the descent. They got in half a dozen runs.

"The day was amazing," said Dale Loyer, a volunteer with CADS since 1992 who described being part of Winters' day on the slopes as an honour.

"Those who were directly involved afterwards were just completely elated that they could take part with Peter," he said.
Peter Winters skied the slopes of Western Canada for more than four decades without fear.

Winters is one of nearly 70 Edmontonians being assisted this winter by CADS, including people with spinal cord injuries, a visual impairment or Down syndrome.

Last fall the association, which is working to expand the number of students in its eight-week program, opened a new clubhouse at the base of Rabbit Hill.

Carson has expressed her heartfelt thanks to CADS volunteers for their compassion and patience, as they made her partner's last wishes come true. In a letter published in the Edmonton Journal, she described it as one of the most heartwarming experience of their lives.

Winters said skiing has taught him an important life lesson.

"You have to go for it."

Follow Andrea Huncar on Twitter @andreahuncar. You can also contact her via email.
Peter Winters and Sid Carlson share a laugh as he tells the story of his first time on skis.

About the Author

Andrea Huncar


Andrea Huncar reports on human rights, immigrant and Indigenous communities, youth at-risk and the justice system. Contact her in confidence at andrea.huncar@cbc.ca