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Volunteers sought to teach snowsports to those with disabilities

Thu., Dec. 5, 2013, midnight

The Therapeutic Recreation Ski and Snowboard is looking for a staff of committed volunteers to help its students enjoy skiing on Mount Spokane this winter.

Alice Busch, Spokane Parks and Recreation supervisor and the manager of the program, said around 100 students with various disabilities come out for the program every winter.

“The ski program has been going on for some time so we get volunteers who come back year after year,” Busch said, “but we are always looking for new ones.”

The program provides classes in three different areas: the Powder Hounds do downhill skiing and snowboarding, Nordic Blue Waxers do cross-country skiing and the adaptive ski and board program helps skiers who can’t stand up and ski in the traditional manner.

“We have some equipment to help them, or they may have their own and just need a helper,” Busch said.

The adaptive program may require volunteers to lift and move students who have limited mobility.

“That can be challenging so we only ask the volunteers there for a four-week commitment,” Bush said. “In the two other programs we ask for six or seven weeks.”

Skiing takes place on Saturdays at Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park.

The program aims to give people with disabilities the same outdoor recreation experiences as everyone else, Busch said, and to help build self-esteem and social skills that can have a positive impact in other areas of the student’s life.

“A great volunteer is someone who is energetic and likes people,” Busch said. “They don’t have to be expert skiers but it does help if they have a little experience in the snow.”

Staff will teach the skills needed during the classes.

Busch said she got involved with the program more than 20 years ago when she was still in college.

“I was a farm girl, I could ride a horse, but I couldn’t ski,” she said.

She was studying recreation therapy at Eastern Washington University at the time, and needed hands-on experience.

“I had a roommate who was born on skis and she got me to go,” Busch said.

Her involvement grew from volunteering to managing the program as she got her accreditation in therapeutic recreation and eventually was hired by the Parks Department.

“If you like to ski, it’s just a fun experience to be part of,” Busch said.

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