Eagle Mount’s Big Sky Ski Program offers adaptive lessons for children and adults with a wide range of physical and developmental disabilities. The Eagle Mount program creates the opportunity for all individuals, no matter their disability, to enjoy the exhilaration of snow sports, and they currently need volunteers to help instruct adaptive ski lessons at Big Sky.

Eagle Mount seeks volunteers for its Big Sky Ski Program

"It’s been a life balance thing for me, putting things in perspective, being in that attitude of gratitude.”—Eagle Mount volunteer Shane O’Rourke.

For Eagle Mount volunteer Shane O’Rourke, working with the participants of Eagle Mount’s ski program is a win-win situation. He not only gets to participate in a sport he loves, but he also gets to take part in another activity he enjoys—helping others get the most out of life.

Bozeman-based Eagle Mount’s ski program provides adaptive ski and snowboard experiences to community members with physical and mental disabilities, using equipment and support to allow those who may not be able to experience a day on the slopes do just that. The goal is to teach skiers to become independent so that they may one day be able to ski with family and friends. 

   O’Rourke said he signed up to volunteer for the program five or so years ago. His passion for helping those in need stemmed from a service learning project at Montana State University’s Student Center, helping fellow students with disabilities use adaptive equipment. Finding the work rewarding, he eventually signed up with Eagle Mount, and has been coming back winter after winter. 

“I enjoy being able to be a part of somebody’s life, and their growth through this adaptive program,” said O’Rourke, who since joining the Eagle Mount volunteer team has gone on to become a licensed EMT. “It’s been a life balance thing for me, putting things in perspective, being in that attitude of gratitude.” 

Even those who have no experience with adaptive ski equipment are welcome to become a volunteer. As part of preparation for the ski program, volunteers receive professional training in specialized skills to assist stand-up skiers, bi-skiers, mono-skiers and/or snowboarders. It’s an intensive two-day training prior to the season kicking off. Everyone starts as a stand-up volunteer, regardless of their skiing ability, to learn how to teach. From there, continual training is offered to build upon skill sets.

Big Sky Ski Program Director Sarah Wolf said she started out with the program as a volunteer, and recommends others join in the fun. 

“The most rewarding experience about being a volunteer is being a part of the excitement and thrill when a skier who otherwise thought they had limitations breaks that barrier,” she said. “Watching them actually transition, the process of overcoming their disability, making it into an ability, and finding that freedom of mobility, is fantastic. The smiles say it all.”

Interested in joining in the fun? Dry land training will take place Nov. 28 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Big Sky Water & Sewer District office, followed by on-the-snow training Dec. 15-16 at the Big Sky Resort Madison Ballroom/Huntley Lodge from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. 

 For more information email Wolf at swolf@eaglemount.org or call 539-5520.

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