Ski for Light Montana held event in West Yellowstone in February

Saturday, March 9, 2019
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The group of VIP skiers and snowshoers participating in this year’s Ski For Light enjoy a photo break at West Yellowstone.

Photo courtesy of Bill Larson

The annual Ski for Light Montana crosscountry skiing and snowshoeing event for blind or visually impaired persons was held Feb. 14-18 at West Yellowstone. Twelve VIPs enjoyed skiing and snowshoeing for three days with help from 14 guides. The skiing was done on the 35-kilometer Rendezvous trail system at the edge of West Yellowstone. Snow shoeing was on the Boundary trail extending from town north to the Madison River.

Some of the VIP participants have partial vision while others have no sight at all. Two pair of parallel tracks are set for the skiers. The VIP skier uses the right-hand track with the guide skiing to the side and slightly behind to inform the skier of upcoming curves, hills, any other skiers in the track and to describe the surroundings. Snow shoeing involves a guide walking ahead of two or more VIP persons with another guide following the group.

This was the first experience skiing or snowshoeing for some of the VIPs. Vaughn Beck was celebrating his 29th birthday. His Facebook message said: “Today I had the best birthday ever. I spent my birthday with complete strangers I had never met before. A bunch of blind folk from Montana, skiing in West Yellowstone. I got to go cross country skiing and also snowshoeing for the very first time. The feeling of going down a hill with no sight is so exciting. It’s scary at first. But every time I wiped out and got back up, I was ready for the next hill. I had a smile on my face all weekend long laughing sometimes even secretly crying. Being out in Yellowstone when it’s dumping snow, or the wind is blowing through the trees. Or the sun is peeking through the forest and feeling the sun on my skin. It was one of the biggest spiritual moments I’ve ever had. Feeling complete freedom, gratitude, knowing that I don’t ever have to live the way I used to, ever again.”

VIP participants from Central Montana included Jason Stanley from Lewistown, Kristina Dutton from Sand Springs and Josh Dover from Buffalo. Guides from this area were Scott Sweeney from Lewistown and Michele Dover from Buffalo. Other VIP’s were from Big Fork, Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Columbia Falls, Ennis and Missoula. Other guides were from Billings, Bozeman, Ennis and Missoula, Montana. Also, from Idaho and Ohio.

Some of the VIP participants can pay the lodging and meal costs but most cannot. They are assisted by donations from many individual, business, and organizational sources. Ski for Light Montana is a 501 C (3) corporation. They are a member of the Central Montana Foundation. For more information about Ski for Light Montana, or to donate, check their website at sflmt.org. Ski for Light Montana is also on Facebook.

For questions call Bill Larson at 366-0760.

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