Making Winter Accessible for All

DREAM Adaptive teams up with Glacier Nordic Club to expand its winter programming

DREAM Adaptive Recreation’s mission is to make winter activities accessible to everyone, but Executive Director Julie Tickle admits that not everyone, regardless of their ability, wants to go barreling down a hill on skis.

To make sure everyone who wants to enjoy winter can, DREAM Adaptive is teaming up with the Glacier Nordic Club to open cross-country ski trails in Whitefish to individuals with disabilities.

“We want to open new doors for people and take down barriers,” Tickle said. “Not everyone wants to speed down a mountain, so this will be a good option for some people.”

Since the 1980s, DREAM Adaptive has tried to make the outdoors more accessible through various programs. In the summer, that means mountain biking, paddle boarding and other water sports. In the winter, DREAM Adaptive runs a ski and snowboard program at Whitefish Mountain Resort. There, instructors work with people with physical, cognitive and sensory disabilities to help them hit the slopes either with traditional skis and snowboards or adaptive sit skis. 

Thanks to funding from the Tracy Foundation, DREAM Adaptive was able to purchase adaptive equipment for Nordic skiing, including two sets of sit-down skis and two standing snow sliders. The snow sliders look like a walker on skis and help people who may not be as steady on their feet experience cross-country skiing. DREAM volunteers will also be able to give guided tours to the visually impaired.

As part of the new partnership, the Chet Hope Youth Ski League will also open up to children with disabilities. The seven-week program is celebrating more than 40 years of teaching and improving classic ski skills with trained instructors through fun and games while exploring the snow-filled landscape. The program starts Jan. 6 and runs through Feb. 22 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays on the groomed trails at either the Glacier Nordic Center at the Whitefish Lake Golf Course or Meadow Lake Nordic Trails in Columbia Falls. The cost is $50 for each seven-week session, and scholarships are available.

Cameron Blake, executive director of Glacier Nordic Club, said he is excited about the new partnership.

“We are especially thrilled to see the Chet Hope Youth Ski League become inclusive and welcome all children to experience the thrill of being active and outside in winter,” he said.

Tickle said the expansion of the DREAM Adaptive catalog comes at an exciting time for the organization. This year, the organization is celebrating the fifth anniversary of its backcountry powder camp where more experienced adaptive skiers can go into the backcountry with Great Northern Powder Guides. Tickle said DREAM and Great Northern offer one of the few adaptive backcountry experiences in the United States. The camp runs from Feb. 9 to 15, 2020.

“It gives our athletes a true backcountry experience,” she said.

For more information about all of DREAM Adaptive’s programs, visit dreamadaptive.org.