Skiing with a vision impairment
The Vision Impaired Blind and Everyone (VIBE) Ski club is based at Mt Baw Baw in Victoria and promotes opportunities for people who are blind or vision-impaired to participate in snow skiing. Peggy is vision-impaired and has been involved in the club for many years.
"I started off going to the snow and just tobogganing", says Peggy. "But then I got bored so I decided to try skiing."
Peggy first started with a couple of skiing lessons. She admits that learning to ski involved a lot of talking and patience.
"Skiing lessons are expensive but I really recommend having a couple before starting to ski."
Peggy skis with a sighted guide who wears a high-visibility vest. If the weather is good and she can see the vest she is ale to follow the guide. She also asks the guide to keep talking to tell her which way they're going. Some people with a vision impairment may prefer to have a guide behind them as well, in case the front skier falls down.
A few weeks ago weather conditions were so terrible that Peggy was unable to see at all. To overcome this challenge she skied side by side with her guide. "I held onto a [ski] stock and followed her movements. I crashed into her all the time."
Peggy admits that it was a scary experience. "I didn't realise the weather could change so quickly. When I went up by the ski lift, it was fine, but when I got down, it was raining and snowing", says Peggy.
Despite days like that one, Peggy describes her experience of skiing as being an adrenalin rush. She enjoys the movement and feeling the wind in her face.
"Anyone can ski. If you're blind, the only disadvantage is your sight; so you really need to ski with someone. There's certainly ways around that. It's well worth giving it a go. It's also good for the organisers at Mt Baw Baw as it makes them more aware that people with disabilities want to ski."
In 2011, the VIBE Ski club established a sponsorship program to financially assist a vision-impaired person and their guide to develop or improve their ability to ski through ski lessons. This summer the club is offering vision-impaired people of all ages and VIBE members the opportunity to experience skiing at an indoor Ski Centre. Applications are now open. The successful applicant will receive a VIBE Ski Club Super Skier Package which includes resort entry to the Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort, a personal lesson with a fully qualified ski instructor, one day ski hire and one day lift ticket.