SOLO volunteers teach people with special needs how to ski and to gain independence. We offer cross-country and downhill skiing, as well as snowshoeing. We do not offer a snowboarding program due to safety concerns. Volunteers will have a chance to meet and spend a little time with our students at the orientation and training sessions in December. All new and returning volunteers must submit a new Volunteer Application by the orientation meeting on December 5, 2016.
Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
The program coordinator will evaluate student skill levels and recommend snowshoeing or skiing. Of course, student preferences are taken into account. Volunteers are paired up one-on-one with a student skier and generally work with the same student throughout the six week program. On Saturday mornings, we ski at Rum Village Park in South Bend, Indiana, where we carve out trails that go from a flat, easy loop for beginners, to a slightly rolling trail to wide open hills that can serve as intermediate or advanced trails. It's a great mix. And we're always close to the lodge where we can duck in for a hot cocoa break. Even when there is little to no snow, we still meet and hike through the woods. The cross-country program runs for 6 weeks starting on Saturday, January 7, 2017.
In the downhill program on Monday evenings, it is common for volunteers to work in teams of two with one student, and will typically work with the same student for the duration of the program. Some students have been in the program for many years and simply need a 'chaperone' on the ski hill. Other students are brand new and will need help learning how to use the equipment and learning the basic techniques of skiing. Volunteers do not necessarily need to be expert skiers, but should be familiar with stopping, turning and using the chair lift and be able to help a student without having to concentrate on their own skiing.
Depending on the student's abilities, volunteers may use various adaptive teaching tools like a 'ski bra,' which holds the student's ski tips together as a volunteer controls the skier from behind with a pair of straps clipped onto the skis. They are like training wheels on a bike. The volunteer lets go as the student skier gains more control. There are other teaching tools and techniques which are best seen and learned while working on the snow with experienced volunteers. A training session for downhill volunteers will be held on Monday, December 19, 2016 at Swiss Valley, or if Swiss is closed, on January 2, 2017. The downhill program runs for 6 weeks beginning on Monday, January 9, 2017.
If conditions are not conducive to skiing (not enough snow, too cold, etc.), we will post a message on our general phone line. You can call 855-252-6922 each Monday to find out if we are going skiing. If a Monday night ski is cancelled, we will add an extra week on to the end of the program so that we can still ski a total of 6 weeks.
Cost of participation as a volunteer
There is no cost to participate in either the cross country or downhill programs as a volunteer. Equipment is provided for cross-country skiing, and SOLO provides lift tickets, ski rentals and a free bus ride from Granger to Swiss Valley and back for the downhill program.