Tips for Cross-Country Skiing with Visual Impairment

Contributed by Tara Annis

Cross-country skiing is a very tactile sport. This makes it a great sport for people who are blind or visually impaired and for people of all ages, including seniors.

Choices of Trails

I like it because the trails offer different terrains and more variety than downhill skiing. The sport also allows skiers to choose flat trail sking or hillier terrain, making it possible for people with different fitness levels and degrees of expertise to participate.

Managing Glare

Skiiers should wear goggles or sunglasses and a hat to block the glare. The glare comes both from above and below the skier.

Using GPS

I am going to try a talking GPS to map the trail. They can be programmed to give specific directions such as "sharp turn."

Having a Good Guide

Having a good guide is critical. Since time is short, guides should offer descriptive but very pointed information. For example: "sharp turn ahead to right" or "steep hill" or "large object directly ahead." Guides also need to wear brightly colored clothing to stand out against the snow and use an MP3 player or wear a bell so that they can be heard and followed.

Guide Services and Organizations

Many local ski slopes offer guide service now and some agencies for the blind are also offering ski outings. So check ahead. There are also national organizations that offer guides and opportunities to ski. I have participated personally in the Ski for Light program. The United States Association of Blind Athletes is another good organization.

Read my blog on Enjoying the ParaOlympics.

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