One local family is getting ready to fly high as Silver Star Adaptive Snow Sports (SSASS) gears up for the annual Carter Classic.
“I like to ski – it’s like flying but on the ground,” proclaims Shae Vance, a 14-year-old who is looking forward to beginning her eighth season as a student with SSASS. And for a second time she plans to ski with her family in the Carter Classic Memorial Dual Slalom, an annual fun race and fundraiser for SSASS.
“I don’t think we as parents would have been able to teach Shae to ski on our own,” comments Vance’s mother. “The individualized attention and instruction, as well as the personal connection from the SSASS volunteers, was exactly what she needed to make skiing a success.”
SASS is a completely volunteer-run charity that provides free skiing/boarding instruction to anyone who cannot participate in a regular lesson due to a cognitive, sensory or physical disability. Programs are available for both locals and visitors to SilverStar Mountain Resort and for all ages and abilities. This season, SSASS has 57 trained instructors and will provide instruction to more than 100 students. A large percentage of SSASS’s enrollment is persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Vance was diagnosed with ASD at four-years-old and Developmental Coordination Disorder, which is a delay of motor development and the ability to coordinate movements resulting in tremendous frustration when attempting to learn any motor activities.
“SSASS is about building a relationship with a student and developing their confidence,” says Terry Brill, an instructor with SSASS for 20 seasons and Vance’s instructor for several years.
He describes Vance as a pleasant, bright young teen who has matured a lot and gained confidence.
“We celebrate every milestone” he explains, “as simple as carrying her own skis, to skiing through the trees.”
His best memory is the day, early in her fifth season, when she was able to ski independently without a tether. Her mom happened to witness this and says “it brought tears to my eyes.” Now, Vance is able to ski a few runs with her family.
Last year Shae, her parents and two younger brothers, Lachlan and Ronan skied in the Carter Classic. Shae’s brothers really enjoyed racing down the easy slalom course, set up with ramps, flags and electronic timing. Shae followed Brill down the course and reports that it was “pretty cool.”
The whole family looks forward to participating in the Carter Classic again this year.
SSASS invites the public to join SSASS students and instructors by registering a team of three or four able-bodied skiers, or sponsoring a skier or a team.