The annual Winter Snowsports Festival provides four days of fun on the slopes for differently-abled skiers.

The annual Winter Snowsports Festival provides four days of fun on the slopes for differently-abled skiers.

Snowsports fest provides opportunities for differently-abled skiers

Connor and Megan Wells are 10-year-old twins who have grown to love the sport of skiing thanks to the Winter Snowsports Festival, and the Vancouver Island Society for Adaptive Snowsports (VISAS).

The festival is an annual event for participants who are differently-abled to experience snowsports in a fun and supportive environment. Each participant is provided with four consecutive days of snowsports instruction, lift tickets and rentals — everything needed to get started on snow.

“Skiing with VISAS has become a special part of Megan and Connor’s lives,” their mother Michelle Wells said. “The program has increased their confidence and allowed them to realize that they can really be good at something.”

Megan and Connor were born prematurely, resulting in a variety of physical and developmental disabilities for both children.

“Megan tends to become overwhelmed easily, and needs breaks and ways to calm her anxiety. Connor is a very social and chatty boy, who is distracted easily and needs clear direction,” she said.

The instructors at VISAS are trained and certified to assess students and provide individualized instruction to meet their needs. While Megan benefits from regular snack breaks, opportunities to practice breathing exercises and a clear plan, Connor benefits from a different approach. He needs instruction to be delivered step-by-step, in simple terms with a dash of humour and consistent re-direction to the task at hand.

“The accessibility of the adaptive snowsports program has made the idea of learning to ski so easy,” Wells said. “The instructors are able to customize and adapt a learning strategy for [both] Megan and Connor’s needs.”

Skiing with VISAS and at the festival has helped give the twins a sense of belonging and “has really helped Megan and Connor build their confidence in their day-to-day lives as well as challenging them in ways they wouldn’t be otherwise,” Wells said. Both children have been asked to join the VISAS Snowsports Development Team when they are older, which is motivating them to keep pushing themselves to become better skiers.

The festival and VISAS have been a benefit to the Wells family, who have shown their appreciation by providing volunteer technical support at VISAS events. The family owns My Tech Guys, so the twins’ father, Bob, is more than qualified to provide and set up projectors and AV equipment, which benefits VISAS. He is also planning on becoming a volunteer VISAS instructor for the upcoming winter season.

Applications are available for the 2018 Winter Snowsports Festival, which runs from Jan. 7 to 11.

FMI: visasweb.ca, or contact Peter at peter@playsthatwork.com or (416) 363-4972.

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