Mono ski event offers adaptive skiing at Spirit Mountain

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The 18th Annual Great Lake Mono Ski and Race Camp is taking place at Spirit Mountain this Wednesday through Friday.

"It’s enjoyable,” said participant Brandon White. “It makes me happy. It’s nice to be out and about doing things."

"It’s for youth and adults with disabilities who want to learn how to use mono ski or they already are using the mono ski and they just want to refine and enhance their skills,” explained Volunteer Coordinator Beth Albrecht.

The event is put on each year through a partnership with Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute as well as other funding agencies and partners.

Volunteer Kyle Freundschuh looks forward to the event each year.

“I think it’s one of the funnest things I do all year long professionally.” Freundschuh said. “I’m a pediatric physical therapist, so I play with kids all year long and try to get them to work towards goals such as walking, riding a bike, propelling their wheelchair, sitting up independently, rolling all the milestones you think up developmentally. And when you come here, you get to see kids that don’t get to do all the activities. Everyone gets to do it just like anybody else. Yeah, we modify it there in a mono ski, but they get to be independent and go to all the things that their family members do, their friends do. There’s no limits.”

For parents of the youth participants, this is an opportunity to see their children have a good time doing something they cannot normally do.

"It’s amazing to see their faces, the confidence that they gained through this. and it’s really cool,” said parent Katie O’Groske. “I actually skied a little bit today, so it’s fun to be able to be up here with her, which we normally can’t be."

Mono-skis are designed for people who have little or no use in their lower body but still have strong use of their upper body.

"If you’ve skied before, you have your ski boot, your ankle sits in the bottom of the boot.” explained Freundschuh. “When you look at the monarchy, their butt becomes where their ankle is, their hips come forward. So instead of two skis underneath, they have one ski that’s underneath them, and it makes it so they then have to initiate out their hips to make their turns. and then they have what are called outriggers on their hands. and that’s what they help guide their turns with."

As with learning any new sport, mono-skiing can be challenging at times.

“There’s hard times because there’s times where it’s frustrating and it’s hard, and how do you then help coax them along and give them the ability to keep doing it when they fall over, over and over and over,” Freundschuh said.

“It was tough, but it’s fun,” said White. “And the determination, I don’t want to give up, that’s just the person I am.”

“She’ll fall, get back up and all the volunteers are amazing here and really have helped her with her confidence and just to keep her going,” said O’Groske about her 11-year-old.

For both participants and volunteers alike, the Great Lake Mono Ski and Race Camp is an enjoyable experience year after year.

“We’re just grateful for everyone here at the time,” said O’Groske. It’s a lot of energy, it’s a lot of work, so we appreciate it.”

“I think it runs the whole gamut of kids here. There’s kids that are really independent that go out and ski out west and developmental ski camps, and there’s kids that are just getting on the hill for the first time,” explained Freundschuh. “My favorite part, no matter which one it is, is when that kid is excited to come back and do it again because that means we did our job and made it so they felt like they could do it. It was accessible to them, and it becomes a lifelong sport. That they can do it, and you have people that are in their 40 or 50, 60s that are coming back and still skiing in the program here.”