Ski for Light group hits the Yellowstone trails

The entire Ski for Light group stops for a photo before hitting the Rendezvous Trail. Photo courtesy of Ski for Light

The annual Ski for Light Montana cross country skiing event for blind and visually impaired persons (VIPs) was held at West Yellowstone Montana, Feb. 8-12 with 12 VIPs and 14 guides.
Most of the skiing was done on the Rendezvous Trail System, which includes over 35 kilometers of groomed cross country ski trails. The trail begins just two blocks from the West Yellowstone Holliday Inn where most of the participants stay.
The blind and VIPs who participate in this program are instructed and guided by a sighted person who skis in a track next to and parallel to the track of the VIP. Some of the VIPs were skiing for the first time, but many come back year after year for the chance to enjoy the outdoors, the physical exercise and challenges of cross country skiing. The motto of Ski for Light is: “If I can do this, I can do anything.”
In addition to the skiing program, the opportunity to snowshoe was offered for the last three years. Most of the snowshoeing was done at the Baker’s Hole Campground area just north of West Yellowstone. Also, some skiing and snowshoeing was done on the Boundary trail along the west edge of Yellowstone Park, also just north of West Yellowstone.
Participant Brian Evans, who has been legally blind since the age of 7, said, “I was able to participate in this year’s Ski for Light in West Yellowstone -- it was my first experience in the program. We were afforded the opportunity to ski or snowshoe in the beautiful landscape with amazing instructors. All the staff were most helpful and enjoyable, no matter where we were or what we were doing. We were offered the opportunity to be taken out to ski or snowshoe twice each day for three consecutive days. Along with the amazing scenery, it was great exercise, fresh air, sunshine and very relaxing. I look forward to going again next year and hope to participate in the hiking program, Trekk for Light.”
Jeff Haworth from Billings said, “This was my first time experiencing such a wonderful program, Ski for Light. My guide was Harvey Nyberg and I am very grateful for his kindness and patience. Learning a new sport also came with teaching my guide about my eye disease, Retinnitis Pigmentosa. Together we built a bond that will forever hold. Harvey introduced me to snowshoes and crosscountry skis -- what an experience that was for me. Harvey did a great job instructing me, starting indoors and progressing to the great outdoors of the great West Yellowstone area. With a few dips and trips, I am happy to say snowshoeing was a blast. I can’t wait for the next time. Thanks again to everyone for their thoughtfulness and their generosity of time, talent and money to make this wonderful program possible. Without their help and dedication, individuals like myself would not be able to experience the sports of snowshoeing or crosscountry skiing. Their kindness is so much appreciated and I am grateful beyond words. Thanks for my new outdoor sport!”
Ed Durbin is president of Ski for Light Montana, a nonprofit corporation formed 25 years ago to carry on the Ski for Light Montana program. The program is funded by contributions from individuals, organizations, businesses, and often by participants themselves. In addition to the skiing event, a four-day hiking event is conducted in Central Montana in August each year and called Trekk for Light. Anyone interested either as a VIP participant or a guide in either the skiing or hiking event should contact Durbin at 366-0491.
VIP participants from Central Montana include Ed Durbin and Jason Stanley of Lewistown, Kristina Dutton of Sand Springs, Josh Dover of Buffalo and Juli Brandvold of Great Falls.
Guides from Central Montana were Betsy Anderson, Tammi Crawford, Terry and Shirley Ernst, Mary Koltze and Harvey Nyberg, Bill Larson, Jerry and Vicki Minzel all from Lewistown; Jeanine Pendergrass from Roy; and Michelle Dover from Buffalo.

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