United States Association of Blind Athletes Sixth Annual
Ski Festival took place at Pico Mountain, Feb. 9-10
Skiing with a group at Pico this past weekend, it was evident that
they all love to ski, but the typical long-winded reasons about
techniques, adrenaline, or glamor were not the primary reasons
given. Rather, it was the freedom skiing provided that attracted
these athletes. Each one wore orange bibs that read "visually
impaired" or "blind" and they were among the happiest people on the
hill, smiling and laughing with excited anticipation for the next
Ed Plumacher, a skier his whole life, started losing his vision
when he was 40 years old. He explained that his decision to embrace
the challenge of skiing was because it gave them a sense of
freedom, saying "When I am skiing, I am free. Free of my handicap.
Free of my disability. I just love being out here."
Plumacher, now 52, recently decided to ski again and signed up
for the ski festival at Pico. He once was an avid skier but this
time, he would have to do it blind- his disability would need to be
overcome with help and practice. Although it's the same sport,
skiing to him now means something very different.
Plumacher, the group blind athletes, their families and a host
of volunteers gathered at Pico Mountain, Feb. 9-10 for the United
States Association of Blind Athletes Sixth Annual Ski Festival. The
athletes, who came from the New England states, as well as Florida,
North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota, were
given the opportunity to learn to ski or race in the sports of
Alpine and Nordic skiing.
"USABA is extremely pleased to partner with Vermont Adaptive to
provide an opportunity for skiers who are blind and visually
impaired. Now in its sixth year, the event has really expanded,"
said Mark Lucas, USABA's executive director in a recent
Vermont Adaptive provided trained guides and instructors, usually
two per athlete, one who skis in front and one behind the visually
Athletes of all abilities showed up for the event last weekend.
Some had skied prior to becoming blind and others had not. Pasqual
Agnone, lost 90% of his vision in his early 20's. "This is my third
day skiing in my life," he explained. Watching him make graceful
turns, it was hard to believe. "All I am doing is listening to my
guides. Long Strides. Tight turns. I am improvising the basics," he
explained. "Once an athlete, always an athlete!"
Agnone insists on the importance of continuing to push himself.
He took a couple more runs with his guides and then headed for the
This was the best turnout Vermont Adaptive had seen for this
event, with 31 registered athletes, organizers said. As such events
continue to grow, so does the demand for volunteers. Peter Casey
joined as an adaptive volunteer after witnessing the joy a guide
was able to provide a disabled child. "4 years ago, I was coming
down 49er and saw some guy with something that looked like a
wheel barrel full of tools," he said. "When I got a little closer,
I realized there was a child inside of it. The smile I saw on that
kids face made me sign up to volunteer for Vermont Adaptive that
The Vermont Adaptive program and all its volunteers and
supporters provide an opportunity for athletes to do something they
love, outdoors and, perhaps most importantly, give them the sense
of freedom from their disability as it no longer has to prevent
them from skiing.
Plumacher was very thankful for the day on the slopes and
encourages others with disabilities to try it. "Don't give in," he
insists. "I would recommend this program to anybody. They
understand our conditions. They make the transition very smooth and
teach us techniques to help the sport adapt to us. I got something
that I truly love back. I can't thank them enough."
The next event for Vermont Adaptive, Rally in the Valley, will
take place at Sugarbush Mountain Resort St Patrick's Day
About Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports
Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports is the largest year-round
disabled sports non-profit organization in Vermont offering the
most diverse program opportunities and unique, specialized
equipment. Vermont Adaptive promotes independence and furthers
equality through access and instruction to winter and summer sports
and recreational opportunities. For more information, visit