Maine Adaptive Sports: Where Skiing Can Be Fun (Even For The Slightly Terrified)

Wheelchair battery? Check. Medical supplies (and lots of them)? Check.  Medications? Check. Go Pro? Check.  Ski gear and warm clothes? Check.  The dog bed, dog food, and the dog? Check!

It took me an entire day to get the gear together for five of us to head north, and we set off with no small amount of trepidation, given that extreme cold temperatures were forecast for Maine on a recent February weekend.

photoWas it worth it? ABSOLUTELY.

Check out her video here (thanks Go Pro!).

IMG_1445Marianne has skied for years with Maine Adaptive Sports at Sunday River, in Bethel, Maine.  So have others who are veterans, paraplegics, amputees, and the blind.  She has skied with many of the same volunteers, year after year, who welcome her (and us) back like long-lost friends.  Maine Adaptive Sports is fortunate enough to have a dedicated lodge, slope-side, with plenty of parking.  All the equipment Marianne needs is right here – including helmet, goggles, hand warmers even!  They make it downright EASY for you to get on the slopes.

IMG_1429Like a well-oiled machine, Maine Adaptive volunteers get their skiers on the slopes by 9 am, and they keep them going until lunch time.  Skiers can sign up in advance for a half-day of skiing or a full-day (see the website for on-line forms).  Sunday River management has some restrictions on the program;  for example, the handicap program runs only on Sunday (not Saturday) on a regular weekend, and there are some limits during school vacation weeks.  However, skiers and their volunteers ski for free on the day of their lesson (no small thing given the price of single-day lift tickets).

IMG_4140Our first ski experience with Marianne, many moons ago, was at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire.  I found the mountain slightly crazed, packed with careening skiers heading pell mell down the main run, while music blared from unseen speakers.  The handicap ski program was in the main lodge (that may have changed by now), and you had to get in line with everyone else to use the only-somewhat-accessible bathroom.  Same story with parking – you’re in the mosh pit with everyone else.  Having to compete with the teeming (although happy) masses for bathrooms, parking, and yes, even air space, means added maneuvering for wheelchair users.  And extra work. And compounded stress.

IMG_1442Sunday River can be a bit of a drive if you live near Boston.  But it is so worth it to get to this big (lots of runs and they stay on top of snow-making), family-friendly (yet challenging for those like their thrills!) resort, especially because of Maine Adaptive’s beautiful launching space for skiers who use wheelchairs.

We’re lucky enough to stay with our extended family (who put a ramp in their condo for Marianne to support her skiing endeavors!) but Maine Adaptive Sports also maintains a list of lodging in the area:  Sunday River Lodging Directory.

IMG_4148Marianne was hesitant, really scared even, at first.  But now she is a skier, thanks to the hard-working staff and volunteers at Maine Adaptive.  She steers herself.  She’s been known to do a half-pipe or two. She’s wiped out with the best of them.  She skis with cousins Brendan and Rachel, Uncle Bob and Aunt Marcia, her brother, sister, dad.  Apres-ski? She definitely enjoys that hot chocolate and sense of personal satisfaction at the end of a long hard day of skiing.

Thanks to Maine Adaptive Sports – and Sunday River – for equalizing the world, one run, one day, at a time.



Travels Near Sunday River, ME

Winter is coming, oh yes, it is.  I follow the weather blog of a family friend who predicts weather as a hobby, and although Pete says it’s too early to make an educated guess (watch for his predictions around November), the Boston area could have “a very memorable winter” this year.  Coming from a hardened New Englander like Pete, words like these conjure up equate measures of elation (woo hoo! I love snow days!) and despair (but not too many snow days! how many exactly are we anticipating?).

IMG_3140In Bethel, Maine, the leaves are starting to turn, and it’s a beautiful time of year for a road trip to the Sunday River area before the snow hits the ground.  On Columbus Day weekend, the Sunday River Resort hosts its annual fall festival.  You can buy your season pass and check out the pre-season equipment sales, take in some great music and even better – participate in or cheer on the North American Wife Carrying Championship!!  Seriously, this is apparently a very big deal.

IMG_3153Near the ski resort, you can wheel or walk in to the Sunday River Brew Pub, for good burgers, hearty and healthy salads and one of Stoo’s Brews (I heartily endorse the Sunday River Alt).  A little further afield, but definitely worth the 30-minute drive to Rumford, is the Gone Loco No View Farm cafe and bakery.  Annette, the owner, opens for the season in early October, and if the home-made chocolate she so kindly gifted us is any indication of her kitchen prowess, I will return this winter.  The cafe is accessible by outdoor ramp.  About a mile down the road is Mt. Zircon, a satisfying half-day hike or snowshoe destination – although you’d have to bring your own equipment if you needed modifications.  The views from the top of this 5-mile round trip hike and a pit stop at the No View Farm are a rewarding exploration onto a little-traveled road in the Androscoggin River Valley.


Ruby Dog: a fearless hiking, snow-shoeing and couch-surfing companion

When looking ahead to winter fun, consider the programs offered at Maine Adaptive Sports.  Their winter programs run at Sunday River in Maine, beginning in July, and we have had years of truly wonderful experiences with the staff.  Through this link for the town of Bethel, Maine, you can do an easy search for rental properties (sea “handicap accessible” in the search criteria).  Hope to see you there!