Fernie adaptive ski program set to return, seeking new instructors

Fernie Adaptive Snow Program student Neava Thomson and enthusiastic instructor Alina Jackman. (Courtesy of Debbie Zammit)Fernie Adaptive Snow Program student Neava Thomson and enthusiastic instructor Alina Jackman. (Courtesy of Debbie Zammit)
Aspen Siska partaking in a FIRE: Fernie Adaptive Snow Program lesson with instructor Mirey Faema in 2020. (Courtesy of Lindsay Siska)Aspen Siska partaking in a FIRE: Fernie Adaptive Snow Program lesson with instructor Mirey Faema in 2020. (Courtesy of Lindsay Siska)

A program that helps differently-abled people hit the ski hill is back this year and looking for instructors.

FIRE: Fernie Adaptive Snow Program president Debbie Zammit said their goal is to provide “accessible and affordable” snow sport lessons to everyone, and their “focus is on people that are living with disabilities.”

They help people of various ages who have visual impairment, hearing impairment, cognitive disabilities, amputations, brain injuries, spinal chord injuries, and more, Zammit said.

“We’re focusing on getting people comfortable, safe, and using their skills in terrain that is really safe for them.”

READ MORE: Fernie adaptive snow program needs volunteers

They have equipment and training to get their volunteer instructors ready to teach.

“Our goal, where possible, is to get the student independent, or independent with their family… just getting out there and being able to enjoy the snow like a lot of us are able to do.”

The program took last year off due to COVID-19, but, at the moment, they are hoping to get lessons going again by the weekend of Jan. 23, though the board has not yet confirmed that date.

For now, they are seeking new instructors to train up. Currently, they have six who are active. They are looking for at least eight more, though aren’t limited to eight. Two instructors are assigned to each student.

On Jan. 2, they will provide a Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance (CSIA) overview to new instructors, going over the very basics. Then, from Jan. 7 to 9, they will have specific adaptive instructor training, followed by an evaluation, before hitting the slopes for lessons as Level 1 instructors. This is the first year they’ve also had Level 2 instructors, Zammit said.

“We’re really looking forward to hearing from some great people that want to do some instructing.”

Lindsay Siska’s 12-year-old daughter, Aspen, started learning with the program when she was about eight. She did three seasons in a row before COVID hit.

They decided to do the program “because Aspen just needed a little extra help,” Siska said. Aspen has a “moderate intellectual disability and low muscle tone.”

“They are able to work with all abilities and challenges,” Siska said.

It went really well, and Aspen loved it, according to Siska. She’d like to do it again this year, if possible.

“It’s very helpful for children that have extra needs just to be able to have something special for them that they can feel a part of and included. And that they’re able to participate at whatever their level is,” Siska said.

Zammit said that the program was about being inclusive “(and) all about being independent, and feeling the freedom of being out there skiing. It’s one of those things that a lot of us take for granted.”

Typically, the program would run on Sunday afternoons and span six to eight weeks.

They have had a few potential instructors reach out to them so far, and are hoping for more.

“Obviously it’s not great timing, but we are trying to figure everything out, whether we can even run, and we think we can. So, unless something changes again, we’re up and we’re ready to go.”

“We need some instructors to get these kids out having some fun.”

For more information about how to become an instructor or a student, you can visit fernieadaptiveski.ca.

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