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Jane Sowerby in the mountains

Getting over winter blues

By Jane Sowerby

I’m now out in Colorado and have thrown myself back into skiing. I originally came out at the beginning of the season but flew back to the UK after a few days as a very close friend died suddenly. So I took some time out to be close to my other friends and try to get my head around such a tragedy. I dug deep to remain positive, and realised that I’m so grateful to have spent time with such an amazing person. It makes you value what you do have, and want to make the most out of every day.

I’ve been volunteering out here with the National Sports Centre for the Disabled and helping out with some of the newer racers on the competition programme. The plan is to bridge the gap from people who’ve learnt to be good recreational skiers, before they’re ready to start race training. There are some skills that need to be developed outside of race training before it’s worth taking it to the next level.

The NSCD are discussing introducing an ‘all mountain’ disabled ski programme for next season. There are quite a few people who don’t want to get into racing, but just want to become a more proficient recreational skier. We would teach them how to ski powder, moguls, trees, black diamond runs, and even have fun in the terrain park!

I feel most confident teaching other sit-skiers, but got an amazing opportunity to help out a completely different disability. Visually impaired ski racers need a guide to ski in front of them down the mountain and through the race course. One of the blind skiers on the competition programme didn’t have a guide for the day so asked if I’d be willing to help. 

Usually an able-bodied guide is used, but I was willing to try if he was happy! So we donned our fluorescent ‘GUIDE’ and ‘BLIND SKIER’ bibs, to let other people on the mountain know that we need to ski closely together. There’s a communication system set up in our helmets, which allows me to give the direction of the turn and for him to respond so I’m aware he’s still with me. It went surprisingly well. The mountain was extremely busy so I was slightly nervous guiding him through groups of people but luckily we had no major problems. It’s great to have a new challenge and it was a really rewarding experience. It’s not a very common sight to see a sit-skier guiding a blind skier – we got quite a few stares!

My next challenge will be teaching a group of ten new sit skiers, I can’t wait. Until then I’ll just enjoy being back in the beautiful mountains.