ORCA offering Nordic program

Posted: Friday, December 31, 2010

For the first time, the local non-profit ORCA is offering adaptive cross country ski lessons beginning in January for disabled individuals in the community.

Tristan Knutson-Lombardo, the Juneau ORCA team leader, said the expansion of winter programs is logical, as not all their participants are comfortable with the idea of gliding down mountain slopes.

"We recognized that while lots of people like to ski or snowboard, not everyone does," Knutson-Lombardo said. "Part of offering a well-rounded winter sports program is that we make sure to try to find ways to get people outside. So, maybe if somebody is tentative about going downhill on a ski or snowboard, or they're looking for exercise, this (new program) provides another option, another way to get outdoors."

This fits well, he said, with ORCA's other winter programs.

"The great thing about Eaglecrest is that they have close Nordic loop access, so everyone can just meet at the lodge," he said. "Whether they're going up on the mountain or they're going out on the loop, it's just about expanding our offerings and we hope to reach a wider population."

But as a local nonprofit under the umbrella of the Southeast Alaska Independent Living organization, ORCA depends entirely on federal and state grants, as well as fundraising and donations. Hence, the group depends heavily on volunteers.

Knutson-Lombardo said this especially rings true with the new Nordic programs offered this year.

"We are always looking for volunteers," he said. "All through the ski season... people can really tailor their volunteer commitment to what works for them. People have the opportunity to earn a day pass, or to earn lessons through volunteering to better their own skiing ability."

No matter the motivation, Knutson-Lombardo said the rewards associated with service may be surprising.

"As a volunteer, you get to meet a new diverse population, in my mind that's the best part," he said. "Some volunteers have created really positive relationships with students that go beyond the ski slopes."

Those interested in volunteering or participating can contact the SAIL offices at 586-0104.

ORCA is a local nonprofit organization offering outdoor recreation opportunities and community access for people of all ages and with all types of disabilities.

• Contact Outdoors editor Abby Lowell at abby.lowell@juneau empire.com.

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