Taking a day to adapt

Posted: Friday, December 31, 2010

Lindsay Hallvik's most vivid memory in her job as an adaptive ski and snowboard instructor arrived about a year ago as she helped one local woman into her gear. The middle-aged woman was a skier when she was in her prime, but hadn't been on the slopes in nearly 40 years. She had experienced an amputation and diabetes - which, in turn, resulted in a handful of other health-related complications. Hallvik said the woman never expected to access the mountain again.

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Last year she was able to come up to the mountain and Hallvik asked if she would like to ski.

"Well, you know, I don't have the ability to ski on two skis," she said.

Hallvik's response was quick.

"Oh, we have all this adaptive equipment available for you," Hallvik said.

As a dual employee for both ORCA and Eaglecrest Ski Area, Hallvik is an expert at helping adaptive skiers and snowboarders enjoy snow sports. Hence, Hallvik chose a bi-ski for the woman, and helped her through the process.

"We took her bi-skiing down the runs (at Eaglecrest) and she really had the time of her life," Hallvik said. "It really was an amazing experience. Just watching the smile on her face, coming down the mountain, and seeing the thrill in her eyes when she was able to experience an independence that she couldn't otherwise find in her life at that time ... It was inspiring."

It's moments like these that drove Hallvik to make the choice to become a Jesuit volunteer with ORCA two years ago, and it's the same inspiration that has kept her working through ORCA with community members who have disabilities as an adaptive ski instructor and program coordinator with the Snowsports School at Eaglecrest.

Hence, this Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., organizers with Eaglecrest and ORCA are inviting the community to Learn to Adapt! This event aims to raise awareness about adaptive skiing and snowboarding and will offer free educational demonstrations of adaptive equipment and free half-hour adaptive lessons for all abilities. Not only is this an opportunity for disabled individuals to try a new sport, but it is also a chance for anyone to step into the shoes, or in this case the skis, of an adaptive skier. It's a day, Hallvik said, which is designed to teach all participants more about the challenges and cheers associated with adaptive snow sports.

"We just realized that a lot of people, when we're up here teaching lessons, turn their head at the sight of (an adaptive skier or snowboarder)," she said "The sight seems to pique their interest. We thought it would be a good opportunity for the community to get involved and to try it out."

The event also coincides with the kick-off of Eaglecrest's participation in the national "Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month." Eaglecrest is the only ski area in Alaska to participate in this national movement designed to encourage communities to stay healthy and active through winter snow sports. During the month of January, Hallvik said Eaglecrest will host a variety of beginner lesson packages and events to celebrate the month-long event. Some of those include a women's only clinic which is a three-hour morning class taught for women by women, and includes a continental breakfast, pre-lesson group instruction and a lift ticket and rental package. Addionally, there is a Sunday Morning Learner's Special for first-timers and a Triple Play Learner's Pack for ages seven to adult which includes three days of instruction. On the Nordic side, classic or skate instruction is offered on Jan. 8, 15 and 22 from 1-3 p.m.

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

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