I initially got involved volunteering to guide blind/visually impaired persons with the Colorado Ski School for the Blind through my husband Mark, about 24 years ago. After spending time training, my first experience guiding on my own was with a little girl who was visually impaired. We both were nervous and a bit scared but made it through the day without any mishaps. It was quite exhilarating for both of us and I was hooked. I continued guiding skiers the next couple of years until Foresight was founded.
When I tell people that I guide blind skiers up and down the mountain, their response is invariably:
“What?? How in the world…?” But for me working with Foresight is natural, intuitive and FUN!”
I became aware of the organization 5 years ago while I was living in Vail and came across the Foresight information tent at a local festival. Having been involved in other adaptive programs and an avid skier my whole life, it seemed a perfect ﬁt. The idea that I could help these courageous VIPs (Visually Impaired Participants) enjoy their dream of skiing was truly an honor. I anticipated the process to be both challenging and rewarding, but what I didn’t expect was how much I would learn about these incredible people and myself. Not to mention how much fun it would be for everyone involved.
When I think of my day on the hill, safety comes ﬁrst and foremost. The VIP relies on me to ensure they are never in danger and that requires trust. Before I set out with any skier I make sure I spend some time getting to know them, not just in terms of their skill set on the slopes, but I also want to learn about who they are as a person. I also make sure they know enough about me so that they feel comfortable with my guidance. Once we get out there, I work with each person to improve their ability to maneuver on the mountain and gain conﬁdence.
I have lots of stories about incredible and inspiring moments on the slopes but one, in particular, comes to mind. A few years ago, Kevin joined our program, and I was the ﬁrst guide to ski with him. I knew a little bit about his condition and skiing ability. I like to start out slow with skiers whether they are veterans or brand new to the program and then progress accordingly. In Kevin’s case, his impairment only allowed him to see black or white. For him, black represents danger such as a tree or a rock. After skiing together for several days, we were blessed with an awesome powder day. To my awe and amazement, we ended up lapping Genghis seven times, and skiing 40,000 vertical feet! The day was ﬁlled with huge smiles and great stories shared by everyone. Later I found out that Kevin had been a medalist in the para-Olympics, his accomplishments that day were still astounding.
So, when I pack up my car in San Diego and hit the road at 3:30am to head to Vail for dinner that night, I do it with a big smile and know that I am the lucky one. The rewards are huge, and the adventures never end.
Greg Brozovich, Senior Guide
Foresight Ski Guides' mission is to promote fitness, athletic skills, personal achievement, and self-esteem for individuals who are blind and visually impaired. This mission is woven into my methodology when guiding our participants in challenge recreation like skiing or snowboarding. Every VIP (visually impaired participant) is unique and focusing on their individual abilities rather than their limitations defines my approach to a safe and rewarding experience. As a Senior Guide for Foresight, I have 26 years’ experience guiding visually impaired skiers which includes time with the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) in Winter Park, CO in addition to Foresight Ski Guides.
My first experience guiding a blind person was in Steamboat. Peter is an attorney from Seattle and the boyfriend of my dear friend Anne. Peter lost his vision in a car accident on his high school graduation day. He had been an accomplished skier in his youth and learned to ski again after the accident, often guided by his brother. Peter was coming to Colorado for a long Thanksgiving weekend and Anne was excited to introduce the two of us. My first thought when Anne asked me to guide Peter was,
“Wow. How could I gracefully decline her request without getting into an uncomfortable predicament, especially while providing warm Colorado hospitality during Thanksgiving dinner?”
Despite being apprehensive and nervous, having no previous experience, and no clue how to make this a rewarding outing and safe for both Peter and me I decided to buck up and accept the challenge. Besides, Anne was confident in my abilities and I didn’t want to let her down.
Day one at Steamboat was trial by fire. Peter provided tips and pointers while we loaded the gondola and headed up the mountain. As we approached the mid-way point on Mount Werner, and our exit location, I knew there was no turning back now. There we were standing at 9,000 feet at the top of Valley View, a groomed, steep, expert run at the top of the gondola. Peter offered some last-minute advice. “Whatever you do, don’t fall! Ready, set, go!” And off he went. Quickly, and surprisingly, I witnessed how a blind person adapts to their environment, the variations in the terrain and the impact of the wind. I learned how to adapt my communication style to be most effective. After a few runs and some fine tuning of my turn calling, I was beginning to feel more comfortable about continuing to be his guide that weekend. I was hooked.
Greg and Peter, Seattle, WA - August 2, 1995
Guiding Peter was instantly a life changing experience. I was now interested in expanding my knowledge and acquiring the necessary skills to continue guiding individuals who are blind and visually impaired. I joined the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, CO as a volunteer ski guide and developed an affection for those on the “Sunday Blind Bus.” The Sunday Blind Bus brought children and adults with unique cognitive and physical limitations to Winter Park for a day of skiing.
Volunteering was a transformative experience for me. It continues to be a way for me to give back to the sport that has been a significant part of my life for nearly five decades. Volunteering enriches my life in so many positive ways. I am rewarded every time I meet, greet, and guide a VIP. Their unwavering enthusiasm and willingness to challenge themselves is what keeps my passion alive and what keeps me committed year after year.
Jon Hood and VIP Bill
I’ve been guiding for about 17-years with Foresight. I love to ski and I love to volunteer. I saw a volunteer recruitment ad for Foresight in a Denver weekly newspaper. I went to the informational meeting, was hooked, then spent the ski season learning how to guide.
Guiding is a lot of work, not the least of which are the unpredictable roundtrip car rides to Vail leaving Denver at 5:30am in a snowstorm, hoping the road remains open and that our VIP can ski that day. But is it worth it to me? Absolutely. Does one ache a little for a powder day with 8” of new snow sitting outside the Golden Peak door on a guiding day? Maybe a little. But those missed powder days don’t bother me because of the enjoyment I get from being on the slopes until the final download of the day with amazing, courageous VIPs. When VIPs like Bill or Larry tell me that the day we just finished was among their favorite days of the year, that drive up I-70 becomes a distant memory.