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Ski for Light

"There are only two kinds of hills: downhill and 'not-downhill'." That’s the optimistic motto for participants of Ski for Light, an annual event with Norwegian roots where visually or mobility-impaired participants try out the pleasures of cross-country skiing.

The weeklong program of ski training and other activities took place in Granby, Colo., culminating with a 5- or 10-km race on Sat., Feb. 12. Neither blustery wind nor blowing snow could deter the 200 dedicated participants and guides from completing the course in a friendly competition.

For more than four decades, Ski for Light has shown that perfect vision or full physical mobility aren't prerequisites for having fun in the snow. Thousands of enthusiasts from all over the country have taken part in the event over the years.

Depending on arms and abs rather than legs: Jon-Åge Øyslebø from the Embassy of Norway got to try out what skiing feels like for mobility-impaired participants. Ted Ellickson provided valuable advice.

It all started with two Norwegians. Inspired by the success in Norway of Ridderrennet – the Race of the Knights – that was already offering an opportunity for blind people to ski, Olaf Pedersen and Bjarne Eikevik brought the concept to the United States in 1975.

Here the idea was immediately picked up by dedicated American volunteers. It did not take long for Ski for Light to become an annual highpoint for many. In Granby alone, 29 new participants and 32 new guides joined the program this year, according to organizers.   

True to its Norwegian roots, Ski for Light maintains strong ties with Ridderrennet. Among the participants from Norway this year was Harald Vik (73), a 24-time New York Marathon runner. Deaf and blind, he completed his seventh Ski for Light race.

Mobility-impaired racers use specially designed sit-skis, double-poling their way through the tracks. One of those crossing the finishing line in Granby with sore arms and shoulders was Andrea Goddard of Spokane, Wash., who is both blind and mobility-impaired.

The Norwegian Embassy is normally represented when Ski for Light is hosted. That was the case also this year, when Jon-Åge Øyslebø, Minister Counselor for Communications and Culture, got to test the tracks. He came back humbled and impressed.

He also took to heart a statement by longtime volunteer ski guide Ted Ellickson of Michigan, who told him, “Ski for Light is the best cultural export Norway could possibly have offered.”

Ski for Light President Scott McCall is already looking forward to welcoming new and more seasoned participants to the 2018 event, which will take place at the Tahoe Donner Cross Country Center in Truckee, CA.

See (!) you there?