Local organization helps make skiing more inclusive

Hit the slopes of Mount Washington is a winter tradition for many islanders, but for those with disabilities, skiing and snowboarding may seem out of reach.

This is where the Vancouver Island Society for Adaptive Snowsports comes in.

Tracing its roots back to the 1960s when Herb Bradley began teaching adaptive ski lessons, the company now has hundreds of students of all skill levels take on Mount Washington.

“People with cognitive disorders, behavioral disorders, people with physical disabilities, we are able to provide free equipment to all our students”, explains the vice-president of VISAS, Sébastien Bracconier.

“In the past, we’ve coached people to reach the Paralympics and win a Paralympic Games medal.”

The courses have changed the lives of many students, including Craig McKinnon of Victoria. McKinnon was an avid skier before suffering a brain tumor and stroke during surgery.

The Vancouver Island Society for Adaptive Snowsports helped him get back on the mountain.

“Just feeling the wind in my face the first time I went down the easier hill was very powerful and emotional,” McKinnon said.

“Since then I’ve kind of learned to ski independently and it’s just my favorite thing to do and it feels exactly the same as skiing.”

For the all-volunteer team, these moments are what make instruction worthwhile.

“It excites me so much and makes me want to do more and more,” says Bracconier.

To learn more about courses or how to volunteer, visit VISAS website.

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About Robert James

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