17th Annual Great Lake Mono-Ski Madness & Race Camp Draws Skiers from Across Region

Emily Ness
Updated: February 27, 2020 06:23 PM

The top of the mountain is not reserved for able-bodied skiers. Rather, it is open to all skiers. This week, adapted skiers from across the region are trying the sport out for the very first time at the largest adapted learn-to-ski event in the Midwest.


The Great Lake Mono-Ski Madness & Race Camp is hosted by the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute and takes place at Spirit Mountain. Here, skiers of all ages practice getting on lifts, going down hills and polishing their craft with volunteers, instructors and Paralympians.

One participant working to become a skilled, independent mono-skier was nine-year-old Gia O’Groske. O’Groske said that her mom learned about the event online.

“We watched a video of it and I was like: ‘Mom, I could be in that,’” O’Groske said.

O’Groske enjoys practicing her turns and has a goal of going down big hills with her family in the near future.

“It’s a lot of fun,” O’Groske said.

During Thursday’s lesson, skiers worked with Paralympian, Lacey Heward. Heward said she learned to ski at age 14 because she too, wanted to go with her family.

“I fell in love with it. It felt really natural to me. And it was shortly after that, that I made a poster, put it on my wall and it said Paralympics and that was my goal after that,” Heward said.

After a great deal of hard work and dedication, Heward won two bronze medals at the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games.

“That title is something that no one can ever take from you and to reach that level of mastery as a person with a disability—it’s such an exhilarating feeling, it really feels like you’re an equal in the world which is something that I didn’t always feel growing up with a disability so it felt so good to see all of that hard work pay off,” Heward said.

When she moved to the area with her husband three years ago, Heward said that she couldn’t wait to get back on the slopes and hoped to put her experience to use helping others through the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute's event.

“I was just like them too—learning to ski and looking at Paralympians as the goal that I set for myself and not only that, but it has been such a great way to connect with people that have the same desire and likes as you,” Heward said.

Following Thursday's lessons, Heward gave a motivational speech on her experience.

“Mastery really allows you to ski independently, go out with your family, have fun with your friends, travel—I got to travel the world skiing and I want to share that with them and encourage them to really push themselves and go where they want to go in their life and not be afraid—really have courage just like the organization and really go for it,” Heward said.

This year marked the 17th annual Great Lake Mono-Ski Madness & Race Camp. It is made possible by volunteers and sponsors who insure that skiers have equipment and guidance. For many, the event leads to a life-long passion for skiiing. 


Emily Ness

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