Feature - Changing attitudes 

The Adaptive Ski Program is only part of a move toward making Whistler a centre for disabled visitors and athletes

Freddy Barclay's dad has noticed that every time his 10-year-old goes skiing, a month later his speech improves slightly.

That may sound a little strange but any slight improvement in Freddy Barclay's speech is a blessing to his family.

That's because he was born mentally and physically handicapped – Freddy only has about five per cent speech. That's one of the most frustrating things about his disability, because he cannot communicate his needs.

His dad puts the improvement down to the sheer thrill and adrenaline rush of skiing.

For the fourth year in a row the Barclay's have travelled to Whistler from Edinburgh, Scotland to take Freddy skiing and to take advantage of Whistler's Adaptive Ski Program.

So while Freddy's mum, dad, older brother and sister head down the mountain on their skis, he hits the slopes beside his family with a ski instructor and a sit ski.

And he just flies.

In the last five years the Whistler Adaptive Ski Program has also taken off, growing more than 10 times in size and giving more people like Freddy the chance to have wings for a day. If current trends hold up it will continue to expand.

This year was also unique for Freddy as his older cousin and fellow sit skier Pippa Blake joined him on the mountain.

Blake, a former skier, now has multiple sclerosis and cannot use the left side of her body. That doesn't stop her from getting into a sit ski and skiing with an adaptive instructor.

And if the thrills and cheers heading down the Olympic Run were any indication, this weekend's ski day was a huge success for the entire family.

The adaptive program, which is still relatively young, is key to making Whistler the ultimate destination spot for disabled tourists, especially as adaptive sports continue to boom in North America.

"If they are the leaders in the ski industry... they should have the best disabled program," said Mary Clark, a recreational therapist with the spinal cord program at GF Strong Rehab Centre in Vancouver.

Roughly 120 new spinal cord patients go through the rehab centre every year. Most are young. Most are men. And most are risk-takers.

Clark has been a recreational therapist at GF Strong for 10 years. She said the social ramifications of life after a spinal cord injury can sometimes be more disabling than the injury itself. Frequently people who wind up in a wheelchair lose friends and have to deal with a changed role within the family unit.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • A century in the mountains

    Backcountry camping with UBC's iconic Varsity Outdoor Club
    • Aug 27, 2017
  • Still life With Reptiles

    On the road — literally —with researchers charting the new science of road ecology.
    • May 7, 2017

Latest in Feature Story

  • Public Access

    The strange legacy of Whistler's unapologetically grassroots cable TV provider
    • Sep 20, 2018
  • Risk rising

    Receding glaciers are making Pemberton-area volcano Mount Meager less stable than ever before
    • Sep 16, 2018
  • Our plastic pipeline

    B.C.'s program to recycle packaging might not be enough to justify our over-use of plastics
    • Sep 9, 2018
  • More »

More by Alison Taylor

Sponsored

Demystifying the rules around renting out your Whistler home

From average price per night to acquiring the proper license, here’s what you need to know...more.

© 1994-2018 Pique Publishing Inc., Glacier Community Media

- Website powered by Foundation