American Blind Skiing Foundation empowers visually impaired skiers to hit the slopes

WISCONSIN (WLS) -- The American Blind Skiing Foundation is giving blind and visually impaired skiers an opportunity to hit the slopes with the help of guides and safety training.

"The ultimate goal of the American Blind Skiing Foundation is to really just make it available for people who are visually impaired to be able to experience the outdoors and have fun skiing," said Richard Thomsen, a visually impaired skier and member of the foundation's board.

The foundation is based in the Chicago area, providing lessons and guides for skiers of all ages and experiences who fall anywhere on the spectrum of blindness.

Guides adjust their style based on the needs of each person. For totally blind skiers, guides will ski behind them simply stating commands: left, right, slow, or crash (meaning drop instantly to avoid crashing).

Some young, beginner skiers hold onto a pole with their guides. Those without peripheral visual ski behind their guides, following their path.

"Basically they tailor it to whatever your needs are to make it very adaptable for any sort of vision loss," Thomsen said.

The entire organization relies on donations to fund ski trips and equipment, and volunteer guides provide all of the labor.

"It's very rewarding for the guides, very rewarding," said guide Joe Ferrick, who has volunteered for the past 20 years.

This week the American Blind Skiing Foundation is headed out for their annual western ski trip to a major resort near Lake Tahoe. Visit their website to learn more about the organization and sign up for future ski trips.
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