This article first appeared in print in the December 2019 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. Read our e-edition here.
Living in a ski town, you might take your ability to hop from one area of the mountain to another and ski the slopes with relative ease for granted.
Jeff Scott does not. After an accident on the hill in 2010 that left him a quadriplegic, he became all too familiar with the barriers that exist for those with disabilities. And nowhere are these barriers more obvious than a town where extreme outdoor sports are king.
Scott considers himself fortunate to have been able to return to the backcountry thanks to a group of friends willing to go the extra mile. But not everyone has what Scott had: the connections, resources, manpower and willingness to help that it took to allow someone with his level of injury to access the backcountry. So rather than accepting the barriers, Scott set out to make it easier for people like him to get on the mountain and enjoy the thrill of skiing once again.
In 2011, Scott helped Izzy Lynch establish the Live It! Love It! Foundation, an organization that makes outdoor recreation and adventure accessible and affordable for anyone with a disability. In 2014, the foundation united with Revelstoke Adaptive Sports, a local organization that Scott had a hand in founding soon after his accident. Revelstoke Adaptive Sports is now run as a program of the Live It! Love It! Foundation.
The challenges faced by disabled skiers can be nearly insurmountable without the help of programming like this. From the cost of the specialized equipment to difficulties manoeuvring around the hill, skiing as a disabled person is simply out of reach for many.
“It’s just not something that the average person with a disability is going to be able to access,” Scott says. “It’s unfortunate because the mountains are a special place and it’s great to be able to share that with everyone.”
Volunteer coordinator Sarah Taylor agrees that everyone deserves to get out and enjoy the mountain environment.
“In Revelstoke especially, the ski hill has such a big influence on the way people live and the way the town is that I think it’s really important that local people have the right to access it if they want,” she says. “We remove a barrier for some people to be able to do that.”
When he was a newcomer to town, Taylor initially got involved with the program to meet like-minded people, but said he also has a personal connection to the work.
“I have a niece who uses a wheelchair, and I know there are lots of programs like this in the UK where she lives … and they enrich her life so much, so having the chance to be involved in that kind of program for someone else was a bit of a no-brainer for me,” she says.
Taylor finds being involved with the program very rewarding, a feeling she says is common among the other volunteers as well.
“I think a lot of the volunteers would tell you [that] the connection we build with the people who use our program and then watching them develop and learn and enjoy, it’s so hard to describe how awesome that is.”
While similar adaptive snow sports programs exist throughout British Columbia, the program in Revelstoke is unique. With steep its steep terrain and beckoning sidecountry, Revelstoke Mountain Resort is considered a challenging hill, meaning the program here has adapted to focus on intermediate to advanced athletes who are already relatively independent on the ski hill.
But the 2019-2020 season will see some change for the program. With the addition of the Stellar Chair, which will open up new beginner and intermediate terrain, the program will be able to accept athletes with skills more diverse than ever.
Along with the expansion in available terrain, the program’s participant and volunteer numbers should keep growing this season, as they have each year since the program began.
“We’re just looking forward to bigger and better,” Taylor says. “Every year we have more participants and every year they come from a wider variety of backgrounds as well. That’s really sweet for us.”
Jeff Scott is also looking beyond the upcoming season and planning for some major developments in infrastructure and programming. He’s currently working towards a designated space for the program at the ski hill and hopes to expand the programming beyond snowsports.
“The multi-sport multi-season is definitely in the works,” he says. “Right now it’s just [about] trying to make sure we’re doing a good job of what we’re doing. Slow, sustainable growth has been our approach thus far and it’s kind of how we’re rolling and it’s been going well.”