Two Days with Wintergreen Adaptive Skiing – By Gordon (fastsk8r) White

In this day and age, it is getting more common to see programs for teaching disabled skiers adaptive sports. My wife and I have been involved here in Florida with adaptive waterskiing ourselves. When it came time for her to learn how to snow ski, we turned to the crew at Wintergreen Adaptive Skiing (WAS) led by Michael Zuckerman.

I first contacted WAS when looking to acquire the necessary adaptive equipment that would allow her to continue to ski after her lessons were done. Michael sent me in the right direction and I was able to get the tethering equipment necessary. I also arranged for her lessons for our trip to VA at the end of January.

We first arrived at WAS headquarters on Sunday, January 22nd. Getting her through equipment fitting was pretty easy since she already had her own skis, boots and other necessities. After a brief discussion to find out where she was sports-wise, her instructors Chris Soune, Michael Sinsser-Booth and Robert Lawrence took her to the slopes.

I have to say that these guys have an incredible level of patience. Debbie is a hemi-plegic (left side paralysis) as a result of a stroke. Although she is a national champion water-skier, she had a bit of fear of the snow. Michael saw to it that she got on and off the lift safely while Chris used the tethers to keep her under control on the slopes. Each trip off the lift chair saw her less nervous about it, making it progressively easier for them to work with her.

Her lesson was for two half days and she made full use of both. On Sunday she made numerous trips down the Potato Patch area and each progressive trip saw her relaxing more and more. For her, the relaxing part was important as her muscles tend to tighten up if she is tense.

On Tuesday they adopted a little more of a tough love policy. This caused her some concern at first, but as she became more relaxed she found that she performed better. She wasn’t allowed much in the crutch department and had to go it mostly on her own, having only a tetherer for speed arrest. It was a long trip for her up and down the Dobie runs using muscles she doesn’t normally use. She was pretty much worn out when she was finished.

I can honestly say that the folks at WAS were great to work with. Debbie had a great time and learned a little about what she can do. If you have a member of your family with a disability who wants to give skiing a try, I highly recommend you visit a slope with a program such as this. If they work at it, it won’t be long and they will be joining you on the hill.

Editor’s Note:  Gordon is a member of our messageboard and one of our On-Snow Reporters. The photo shown above shows (L to R: Chris Soune, Robert Lawrence and Michael Zinsser-Booth work with Debbie White on Potato Patch. 1/22/06) – Click here and scroll down to Wintergreen to see more images of Debbie and the Wintergreen Adaptive Skiing Program

Until Next Time!

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Mike Doble
Mike is the Editor and founder of, and Since September 1996 he has posted more than 13,000 posts, articles, photos and videos promoting all of the ski areas of North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.Mike is the father of four daughters, is an avid skier and enjoys golf, tennis, kayaking and hiking in the mountains. Winter snowsports and Summer boating on Watauga Lake are among his favorite pastimes.