The American Blind Skiing Foundation

Today was one of the best days I’ve ever had on the mountain.  Did I ski the Lake Chutes, Horseshoe Bowl or the Windows?  Nope.  So why was it so great?  Because today I got to ski with members of the American Blind Skiing Foundation (ABSF).

The ABSF is a totally volunteer organization that was founded in 1971 and provides opportunities for both youth and adults who are visually impaired.  The ABSF “helps the blind to focus on what they can do … not on what they can’t see.  This knowledge and confidence gives them some of the tools they need to successfully face challenges in other aspects of their lives. ”

And speaking of successfully meeting challenges, meet John Erickson.  I met John and the rest of the ABSF group at Beaver Run Resort & Conference Center.  John is now 54 years-old and a successful financial expert, husband, and father of two children, JP and Ellie.  John lost his sight at the age of 12, an important time in every person’s development.  John learned Braille and continued his education, but there was no more baseball or sports.  John heard of the ABSF and his father suggested that John try it.  According to John “it changed my world”.  

“Back then there weren’t as many guides and we had to take turns skiing throughout the day”, says John.  “I started skiing with the ABSF in high school and thought it would end when I graduated.”  But it didn’t.  John continued to ski with the ABSF in college and from then on, skiing and the ABSF have been an important part of his life.

So how does John ski?  With the help of a volunteer ABSF guide.  Jerry Stein, who is a certified ski instructor with Breckenridge Ski Resort has been John’s guide since 1978.  This year Jerry wore a microphone and John had a receiver that sent signals to the hearing aids in his ears.    With Jerry either in front or behind of John depending upon the conditions, Jerry coached John on when to turn, what the terrain and snow conditions were, where they were going, and how to improve his skiing. 

Not that John needed much coaching on his ski technique.  While I was with them, John practically flew down the mountain on blue runs.  In fact he skied so well, that most of the other skiers didn’t realize he couldn’t see them until after John went by them and then they saw that John’s safety vest said “blind skier”.  I saw a variety of looks of surprise.

Even more surprising………John’s done some other pretty amazing things.  For instance, he’s participated in the “Hustle up the Hancock”, a fundraiser challenge that involved climbing up all 94 flights of stairs of the John Hancock Building in Chicago.  But wait, there’s more – John did another fundraiser where he rappelled down the 27-story Witt Hotel in Chicago.  Seriously?  I asked John if his wife thinks he’s crazy and John grinned and said “Yes, she asks me why I do these things and I tell her because they sound fun”.

Fun and games aside, John wants people to know that even with life’s challenges, they should never give up and should keep trying and looking for new opportunities.  So now you know why today was one of my best days.  Thanks John!

Take a minute and listen to John in his own words by clicking here.                                                

– Jenise Jensen

Mountain Lodge Telluride in the Summer