Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ski for Light: Meeting Sigurd Dalen

I really think that to truly get a sense of the scope of Ski for Light, and how it impacts hundreds of people every year, you need to see it from all it's angles. To that end I've been interviewing different people who are part of this year's SFL family. For those who have been following along this week, you've so far heard about the program from the viewpoints of our Fratrnal Director, Eivind Heiberg and from Maureen Hogg, a blind and deaf skier.

Last night I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the guides at this year's Ski for Light, named Sigurd Dalen! Not only is Sigurd a guide, but he is also a member of the Norwegian Delegation that attends SFL every year and one of the organizer's of Norway's Ridderrennet. Sigurd has been participating in the Ridderrennet for 35 years now, ever since he was a young man attending NIH-Norges idrettshøgskole (Norwegian School of Sport Sciences) in Oslo. Now a faculty member at NIH, Sigurd has also spent the last 16 years as a valued member of the Ski for Light family.

And that's exactly how Sigurd described the SFL when we spoke. "The Ski for Light is like a big family! People come together year after year--it's great!" He also told me that Ski for Light has become an international ski week. This year there are seven different nations represented, inculding: Canada, Japan, Denmark, Norway, France, Great Britain and, of course, the U.S. Sigurd says that this is the largest group of nations the SFL has ever had and that it's important and helps keep strong relationships.

Speaking of relationships, I asked Sigurd about his experiences in being a guide for so many years, since its obviously important to develop a relationship with the person you are skiing with. Sigurd explained that he believes the job of a good guide is "to get the most out of your skier." He also said that, "being a guide is more than seeing and explaining the terrain. A guide needs to communicate with his skiing partner and, just as important, it to be understanding; to be a human being above all.

The comment about "getting the most out of your skier" was an interesting point, to me. Until now, I had though of the guides only in the sense of instructor, or one who provides assistant. I hadn't considered the coach or cheerleader role that guides obviously have to play. We talked further on this point and Sigurd relayed a story to me about a time he worked with a sit-skier who he had guided years ago. Sigurd pushed him and encouraged him asa much as possible, in order to get as much out of the skier as posible, which had an amazing ripple affect. You see, the result of Sigurds pushing was that the sit-skier did much better than anticipated, which led the sit-skier to train even harder for the next year's event. This training, in turn, helped improve the quality of life for the sit-skier. Sigurd said he was very proud to have played a role in that skiers life.

I was glad to have had the chance to meet and speak with Sigurd because in talking to him I learned that a simple act of kindness, like participating in the SFL, can have positive affects far beyond the scope of what you might expect.

Think about that as you go through your day today. I know I will.

Check back later today to read about Sons of Norway member, and SFL Trail Coordinator John Olnes.

No comments: