Wednesday, December 27, 2006

On Baldy, Miracles are Made

Clinics prove helpful for ability instructors

Express Staff Writer

Courtesy photo Sun Valley Adaptive Sports Elitsa Storey straps on a board on Bald Mountain.

Last week, Sun Valley Co. and Sun Valley Adaptive Sports brought veteran adaptive sports instructor Bobby Palm to Bald Mountain for a series of clinics with valley-based adaptive sports instructors. The two organizations shared the cost of bringing Palm to Sun Valley.

A Professional Ski Instructor of America in the Rocky Mountain Division, Palm calls himself a travel-ing clinician.

Among the locales where he has taught include Spain, Argentina, Korea and Chile, as well as Taos, Ski Santa Fe and Pajarito in his native New Mexico. He has also taught at Colorado ski resorts Crested Butte, Telluride, Vail, Aspen, Steamboat, Breckenridge and in Park City, Utah. From Sun Valley, he traveled to Grand Targhee.

Palm has been teaching adaptive skiing to people with disabilities for 30 years and snowboarding for more than a decade. He began in New Mexico as an instructor for kids with impairments and moved on to getting disabled veterans on the slopes.

"I got so hooked on it I've been doing it ever since," he said. "I was going to not travel as much but every-body kept calling me up, and I couldn't say no."

In fact, there is more of a demand than ever to cre-ate ability programs at ski resorts, he said. "And more and more adaptive programs are including snowboard-ing."

Adaptive snowsports work with those who have visual impairments and cognitive related disabilities, in several different areas: three-track, four-track, mono-ski, bi-ski and snowboard.

Palm covered three-track (outriggers and a lone ski) and four-track skiing on Monday, bi-ski and mono-ski on Tuesday and adaptive snowboarding on Wednes-day. He had between 10 and 20 student instructors over the course of the three-day clinic.

On Wednesday, some students came out to play, which helped the instructors use some of the skills they'd been taught.

"We're telling instructors that anything goes in get-ting people of all ages into the fun of snowboarding as long as safety is the prime consideration," he said.

Up on snowboards for the first time were a couple of valley residents. Elitsa Storey, 19, of Ketchum, a three-tracker and member of the U.S. Disabled Alpine Ski Team, grew up skiing on Baldy, despite an above-the-knee amputation.

But she'd never tried snowboarding because of the difficulty in the stance. Pete Lane's in Sun Valley loaned her a board and boots to demo.

"She loved it," Palm said. For the instructors, "it's about letting students know they can. When there's a will there's a way."

Lisa Haile, 35, of Hailey, has cerebral palsy. Until last year she'd never even been on a mountain. After working with Sun Valley Adaptive Sports for a year, she was ready for some real adventure.

Palm took her up while he was here.

"She was just squealing on that mountain and just loving it. It was so much fun," he said.

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