Oregon Adaptive Sports helps people with disabilities enjoy and safely navigate the mountain.
Learning to ski or snowboard can be exciting and intimidating for anyone, but imagine not being able to see where you’re going or hear another skier coming up behind you. Oregon Adaptive Sports (OAS) helps people with disabilities enjoy and safely navigate the mountain.
The nonprofit started out in 1996 as the Central Oregon Adaptive Ski Program. Now, more than 400 people donate their time to the organization, which operates year-round. Throughout each winter, volunteers teach participants on Mt. Bachelor and Hoodoo. Many of the participants are only able to join OAS on the mountain once, but there are some who come back every year.
Volunteer Barb Smith said watching them progress and helping them push their limits is her favorite part. “They share part of their life with you and that’s a very special, intimate experience,” said Smith.
There are more than 200 volunteers on the winter roster for OAS, but more are always needed. Smith said new people often show up timid and unsure of how much help they’ll be. “We learn as we go. None of us is perfect, but we’re all doing our best,” she said. “The number one thing is you have to be safe and have fun.”
OAS puts their volunteers through at least eight hours of training, including a half-day of work on the mountain. Throughout the season, OAS also teaches local students from “life skills” classes and seniors from the Whispering Winds retirement home.
Volunteer Extraordinaire: Barb Smith
Barb Smith began volunteering for OAS in 2009 when she moved to Bend to retire. Smith, 65, said OAS consumes her winter in the best way possible. She taught physical education for thirty-two years, so working with OAS is a natural fit. “You never stop being a teacher and never stop wanting to give, but I get so much more back—you change their lives and they change yours,” said Smith.