Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ski for Light: Larry Showlater

Today's coverage of the 2010 Ski for Light comes to you courtesy of Larry Showalter, the event's immediate past president. I had the pleasure of catching up with Larry in between events on Friday and spoke with him about all manner of Ski for Light topics. We discussed everything from this year's location (a rare repeat from the previous year) to the importance of good communication between guides and visually impaired skiers.

As mentioned in a previous blog post, this year's event is being held in Soldier Hollow for the second year in a row. I didn't think this was a common occurance, so I was glad to get some info from somebody like Larry, who has participated in Ski for Light for 18+ years. According to Larry, its not as rare as it used to be, but it's still not a common practice either. He said it's happened a couple of times in the past 10 years, and before that it was almost unheard of. He told me one the the main factors in returning to Soldier Hollow was that it was very well received by the skiers. “The fact that they get to ski in a venue that was created for the Olympics played a big part in that. It's not usual for an Olympic cross-country venue to be maintained after the international event wraps up.” Also, according to Larry, the weather plays into the decision-making as well, and it looks like they got exactly what they were looking for. Larry told me that they “could not have had five days of better skiing weather. No extreme temps to melt or freeze the tracks makes for great conditions.”

Next I moved the conversation to Larry's experience this year so far. As a veteran Ski for Light skier, I was interested in hearing his thoughts on working with a sighted guide. This year proved to be especially interesting, I think, because Larry was paired with a first-time guide. Apparently, the good folks who plan the event like to cycle guides and skiers in a manner that one year you will be paired with someone with more experience, so the week can be a learning experience for you, then another year it's reversed and you are the more experienced person doing the teaching.

Larry told me that this year he was working a lot on the communication that's needed for a skier and guide to be safe and successful. Larry also explained to me that what you say is only half the equation. How you say it is just as important. Because the skier and guide are constantly in motion, the guide can not waste time or words on “filler,” like uh's and um's. It's important to be very efficient with your use of words. The only thing more imperative to a good experience is to not let the visually impaired skier get surprised or tentative. According to Larry, this can happen easily if the guide isn't communicating well or often. When that happens, the skier gets nervous and doesn't enjoy the experience of being out on the course. Word to the wise, right?

At this point we had to wrap things up, but before we did I asked Larry to share some thoughts on the importance of participating in a worthwhile event like this. He told me “it's a great way to celebrate Norwegian heritage and culture. Participating is a great way to do something fun and spread the word about cross country skiing and Norway.”

Well said, Larry! Ok, check back soon, I should have some photos from this year's event coming shortly!

1 comment:

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