50 participate in 7th annual Ski For Light | SierraSun.com

50 participate in 7th annual Ski For Light

All this weekend, under blue skies, pairs of skiers in bright orange vests were gliding over the sun-bleached landscapes of Tahoe Donner’s groomed cross country trails. Skiers with guides navigated through novice and intermediate runs, between trees, down rolling terrain and around gentle curves.

While this is commonplace to the area, what makes this notable is that the skiers were blind.

The seventh annual Sierra Regional Ski For Light, started in 1993, hosted a three-day event this past Saturday through Monday that offered blind and visually impaired persons the opportunity to ride the snow.

During the program, 25 blind/visually impaired people converged from all over the country and were paired, one-on-one, with a trained volunteers. The volunteers, many from the immediate area, were trained specifically for skiing with blind/visually impaired people through a series of workshops and videos.

“I’ve had a number of accomplishments in my life,” Matthew Stein, a local guide, said, “but this is one of the neatest things I’ve done.”

Stein, whose volunteer responsibilities are like working 24 hours a day for three straight days, according to event organizer Betsy Rowell, said that the experience is at once inspirational and humbling.

“You meet these phenomenal people,” he said. “to hear their stories and their backgrounds is amazing … going back, when the clinic is over, your problems feel small. It really puts things in perspective.”

“The blind lifestyle is kind of slow,” said Donna Brown, Stein’s partner for the day. “This is a good program. You get to go back home and say ‘well, I went skiing for a few days.’ It makes you feel independent.”

The event was a hit. With exceptional weather and good conditions, the group of skiers could take advantage of all-day skiing.

E. Marie Lewis, traveling from Columbus, Ohio to participate in the event, skied all day on Monday wearing a bathing suit top.

“I brought it for the hot tub,” Lewis said, “I had no idea it’d be like this.”

Lewis praised the event and, having participated in two other regional events and one event put on by the National Ski For Light, after which the regional events are modeled, said that this was by far her favorite.

“I just feel more comfortable here,” she said. “It’s more personal and it just feels better than international.”

For information on Sierra Regional Ski for Light, write to P.O. Box 276371, Sacramento, Calif. 95827-6371 or call (916) 362-5557.

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