Accessible Times: The UATP Podcast

Winter Recreation for For People with Disabilities

January 07, 2021 UATP Season 1 Episode 7
Accessible Times: The UATP Podcast
Winter Recreation for For People with Disabilities
Chapters
Accessible Times: The UATP Podcast
Winter Recreation for For People with Disabilities
Jan 07, 2021 Season 1 Episode 7
UATP

Whether you aspire to be a competitive Paralympian or just want to take that first step out the door in the winter, this episode will help you know the best way to get some exercise and enjoy nature in the cold.

Join us for tips on staying warm, finding the equipment that's right for you, and most important, having fun!

Enjoy interviews with Aaron Cox, an expert mono skier, and Alex Ristorcelli of Logan's Common Ground Outdoor Adventures.

RESOURCES:

In addition to Common Ground Outdoor Adventures in Northern Utah, Utahns can choose from several organizations that offer recreation opportunities for people with disabilities. Here they are:

National Ability Center (Park City)

Wasatch Adaptive Sports (Snowbird)

TRAILS: Technology Recreation Access Independence Lifestyle Sports (University of Utah)

National Ability Center Moab Outpost (active in the summer)

Show Notes Transcript

Whether you aspire to be a competitive Paralympian or just want to take that first step out the door in the winter, this episode will help you know the best way to get some exercise and enjoy nature in the cold.

Join us for tips on staying warm, finding the equipment that's right for you, and most important, having fun!

Enjoy interviews with Aaron Cox, an expert mono skier, and Alex Ristorcelli of Logan's Common Ground Outdoor Adventures.

RESOURCES:

In addition to Common Ground Outdoor Adventures in Northern Utah, Utahns can choose from several organizations that offer recreation opportunities for people with disabilities. Here they are:

National Ability Center (Park City)

Wasatch Adaptive Sports (Snowbird)

TRAILS: Technology Recreation Access Independence Lifestyle Sports (University of Utah)

National Ability Center Moab Outpost (active in the summer)

JoLynne Lyon:

Welcome to accessible times the UA TP podcast. We talk about the technology that helps people be independent and how it changes lives on JoLynne Lyon. Today we're talking about adapting winter recreation for people of all abilities. We'll go over some basics, but before we do, we'll hear from Aaron Cox.

Aaron:

In races at Beaver. I've have five, well, five placements to silver, two bronze, and a first place trophy for racing.

JoLynne Lyon:

So was that an event for all skiers? Just model skiers? What was it like for everybody and I was racing competing against normal standing ups gears. I love to be people that are doing it normally. He's a little bit of a celebrity up here that people know him. And like to watch him ski. It's pretty cool. That's Alex from common ground Outdoor Adventures of Logan, one of several Utah programs offering recreation opportunities for people with disabilities. he'll introduce himself a bit more in a minute. Alex and Aaron are both talking about mono skiing. These pieces of equipment are incredibly well designed, if anybody's ever seen Paralympians.

Alex:

It's really it's a fascinating sport. Look up mono skiing in the Paralympics. They are incredibly skilled skiers. And the design of the equipment is really cool.

Aaron:

Yeah, well, last time I went skiing Oh, I couldn't go last year was I had a bad car accident last year in June, so I couldn't go last winter. Because I was trying to heal from my car accident. But the year before I had like two concussions going too fast.

JoLynne Lyon:

Oh, man.

Aaron:

Yeah, I wrecked pretty bad. twice that one year. I don't have fear. And that's, that's one thing, why I'm good at what I do is I'm not afraid to get hurt.

JoLynne Lyon:

If you're not quite to the level of competitive mono skiing stick with us. We've got some tips on how to get started on your outdoor winter adventure, including that basic challenge, just staying warm. And if you're not a skier like me, you should know that there are a lot of options that have nothing to do with skis.

Alex:

My name is Alex Ristorcelli, I'm the program director at Common Ground outdoor adventures based out of Southern Utah.

JoLynne Lyon:

How long have you been with common ground?

Alex:

Yeah, I've been with common ground since October of 2016. So four years now. Great.

JoLynne Lyon:

I'm trying to decide do we start with the fun stuff or with the tips? Let's start with the fun stuff. So you had mentioned that you've just seen people's lives change? So yeah, if you could tell me one or two of those stories, I'd love it.

Aaron:

Absolutely. I was actually just talking to a professor of a USU whose nephew participates in activities with us. And he was talking about how much his nephew's personality changed and his confidence changed from coming to programs with common ground. So we, I mean, I can, there's there's so many examples. We took a young lady's in the valley, on a camping trip down to Zion and Bryce and a couple of other parks down in southern Utah. And she spends her life in a power chair. She has all four of her limbs are affected. So she has quadriplegia. And she got to go on this trip with these two other young women. And they explored the the areas they gave advice to the parks about how to make their parks more accessible. They learned about accessibility, it was all part of a Utah Conservation Corps program. And she came back with confidence and a different outlook on what she can do with her life. That was just it was really cool to see that change in her just from a--What was that? a four day five day trip? It was really cool.

JoLynne Lyon:

So have you seen her? Do you know she's done more? Since that one experience?

Aaron:

Yeah, she actually is designing a logo for us to put on hat. She's in a graphic program at Bridgeland. I talked to her once or twice a week. She borrowed a one of our side by side bikes this summer and early spring. She, to kind of get her out of the house, she comes to a lot of our digital programs. Yeah, she's been doing really well.

JoLynne Lyon:

Great. And, again, camping, maybe it's a little bit more challenging to do in the winter. Yeah. And this is one of the things that I really wanted to ask you about. Because I think everybody, when they contemplate winter sports, the first thing they think is, Oh, dang. Cold, you know. And then another barrier to it is just a lot of times you have to travel a little bit to get up into the mountains or you know, to ski or, or go snowshoeing or whatever. And then there's the gear thing, which I'm sure you and I are going to get into later in this conversation. Just having the right gear. So how can people, I guess, take those baby steps to get out into the wild, you know, when the weather maybe isn't quite as cooperative?

Alex:

Yeah, I would say that the my, the biggest and hardest thing to do is leave your house. Because you're right that the first thing people think about is cold, they think about snow, they think about snow getting in their boots and getting wet and all this stuff. And what I would say to people is go to your go to your normal trails down in Logan, you have great access to trails that are really close by that can offer some pretty good accessibility. And we are going to get more into the gear stuff. But if we just let's just say, it's a Saturday and you and you know, it gets dark at 430 or five o'clock, which to me is the biggest barrier. I just cannot stand how early it gets dark these days. Butsay it's a Saturday and you want to go get outside, you've got the Bonneville shoreline trail. That's really close. My wife and I go up there often, this time of year and even later in the winter. There's already there will be snow on the ground up there pretty soon. And you just go for a walk, it gets used a lot. It gets compacted. Be prepared and what I mean by that is wear underlayers, so long underwear. I oftentimes when I'm going for a hike, I wear long underwear and jeans and hiking boots, and I take gloves and a warm and that's it's not that you have to have all this stuff. If it's directly after snow and you're going to one of these close by trails, snowshoes would be really helpful. Or even yaktrax are really nice. Yaktrax our little, a lot of people know what they are, but they're bungees that you put underneath your shoe that give you a little bit more traction in slick packed snow and ice. And like Blue River Trail from firsthand pestos Nature Center. That's a wonderful place that you can go hiking and and running and snowshoeing year round. And it's always pretty well practic it's used a lot. It's still beautiful. You still get to see the river going. It really is. That's the easiest thing to do to get outside in the winter. Yeah, go out to one of our nearby trails.

JoLynne Lyon:

And I appreciate that. We have more of a statewide audience, but I think just about every community is going to have a trail that's maybe a little bit more local, maybe a little bit more traveled. And I've noticed too, you're mentioning some trails that for example, the Bonneville shoreline trail, it's going to be a little bit steep getting up there. But then once you're up there, it's it's not super challenging. And yet it's it's a beautiful outdoor walk.

Alex:

Yeah, and there's multiple access points for that. And you're right, everybody has their own local trails that are pretty easy to get to. But here in Logan to access Bonneville shoreline trail, you've got access point at dry Canyon. First dam, green Canyon and green Canyon go both North and South on that. And both of them can give you really good access to a nice wide trail that gives you lovely views over the valley.

JoLynne Lyon:

Yeah, yeah. Again, to talk specifically about people with disabilities, or maybe seniors, I know that staying warm is a bigger challenge for them, you know, especially if they don't have the use of their legs. So what are some things that we can do to make sure that they stay warm through this activity?

Alex:

Yeah, absolutely. So. So if we go back to talking about someone that doesn't have use of their legs, it's really important to have layers and then start small, go out for 15 minutes. If you are able to move, keep moving, that's going to keep your blood flow moving, that's gonna keep you warm. If you aren't able to use those legs, like we talked about, then maybe you have somebody that can pull you in a sled. And let's let go enjoy the sounds of nature. And how snow dampens all sounds, it's still one of my favorite things. But do 15, 20 minutes and use that as a calibration. And you can look back and say, Oh, it was that 15 minutes, I was really hot. Look at how red My legs are. Now I can reduce the amount of layers that I use next time. And it's really important to look at your legs and and check out the extremities that you don't have use of after you do an activity. Whether that is skiing, which I'm sure we'll talk about later. Or maybe that's sitting in a sled or going ice fishing, whatever it is, if it's new afterwards, make sure that you look at your legs, look at your body, see how that activity affected you. So that like I said, it can be a calibration you know how it'll affect you in the in the future. I had a woman that I worked with when I was working in Colorado that she is a quadriplegic, spinal cord injury and she gets cold really easily. We're in Breckenridge, Colorado, we have terrible winds, it got super cold there. And she would come back and her legs would be purple. So she started taking foot warmers that have the adhesive on one side, and just sticking them on top of her base layer on top of her long, long, long underwear all up and down her legs. And then putting her extra layers after that, that serve two things. One, it kept the heat pads directly off of her skin, which can be detrimental if you've can't feel your legs. And it also added that little bit of extra external warmth. And that really helped her. Definitely be careful with that because everyone's skin has a different level of sensitivity. And if you don't have sensation of your legs and your legs, you're really hot, you don't know if you are causing damage to your skin. So it's a really good tip. It's a really good thing that she did and make sure that you do it cautiously. And specifically for you and your body.

JoLynne Lyon:

I just appreciate that so much. That's something I wouldn't have thought of at all. And I'm sure that could make the difference between wanting to participate in an activity and not wanting to do it is just, you know, that challenge of staying warm. And I don't want to pound in the whole freezing thing. But that that is something I have a mother who's, she's a senior and I worry about freezing her you know? Yeah, absolutely.

Alex:

Okay, so let's, why don't we plan a trip together? Let's, let's talk about how how we would get... can we use your mama's

JoLynne Lyon:

Sure?! Sure we can.

Alex:

Yeah, let's say we want to get your mom outside. In this example, we'll say that she lives at the senior center, we'll say that the senior center is willing to let you and direct family members take her out. So let's plan a, a short walk down by a park that has a lake by it. So let's go. And the first thing that I would do is tell your mom we want to see we want to get you outside. We want to go from the senior center, we'll come get you we're going to have some hot beverages, which is another really important thing because, for one thing, it warms you from the inside out, which is super, super, super important. For another, it is delicious. Everybody likes hot cider or hot chocolate. So

JoLynne Lyon:

I'm all for that. Yeah.

Alex:

So we are. So take a thermos full of hot beverages, take some blankets, make sure that you have something to keep their face and ears warm. And you go pick her up and let's go out to the park. And let's say that there's a nice little path that it's cold, but the path isn't packed with snow and you can go for a nice little walk. And then you sit and watch the duck swimming on the pond or just watch the day go by for a little while. And one other really important fact with outdoor stuff is that if you keep your core warm, your chest, your stomach, it will keep your blood warm, it will heat up your arms. So whenever it's a really cold day, I have on my underwear, my midlayer. So like my, my fleece or my flannel that I always wear. And then I put on my big vest. And then I put my jacket over that. So that it keeps my core really warm and it will radiate out to my limbs. So if you can keep your mom's chest and stomach warm, it's going to help radiate out to the rest of, rest of her limbs as well. And then keep checking in if they're able to say if they're getting cold or not go with that. One tip that I use when I'm working with students that are nonverbal, or don't have a lot of feeling, I will take my gloves off, and I'll put my fingers on the back of their neck or upper back. And that's a pretty good gauge on how their core is doing and how warm they are. So that they can both kind of have a gauge on where they stand and drink lots of hot chocolates and lots of hot cider and start small 1520 minutes and then head back home

Dan O'Crowley, Logan UATP Coordinator:

utahns you can get a loan for assistive technology devices and pay less interest if you apply for it through the Utah assistive technology program. We partner with Zions Bank to offer reduced interest loans on those devices that keep you independent, including adapted vans, hearing aids, home modifications, and so much more. Visit the Utah Assistive Technology Program website to apply.

JoLynne Lyon:

So now let's get into some of the more the fun, I know that you guys have quite a lot of adaptive equipment. So if you could talk to me about things that that equipment allows people to do that they could not do before.

Alex:

Absolutely. So I actually just had a young man, contact me. He got into a car accident a few years ago. He has a spinal cord injury, he's still very active has a very strong upper body, um,

Unknown:

longboard and snowboard all the time but hasn't really gotten to do any of that since his accident.

Alex:

We have a sit down ski. So imagine kind of like a recliner that fits very well to you and to your... it's very tight, so kind of like a recliner chair. So your feet go up a little bit and there's one ski mounted underneath and

JoLynne Lyon:

is that a mono ski?

Alex:

That's a moto ski. Exactly. So that's a moto ski. There's also a bi ski which has two skis underneath. And well we you know, everybody learned somewhere and it's a it's definitely a learning process to become a good model skier. But this, this young man will not only be able to get out and slide on snow and enjoy the cold and the wind in his face and all that stuff, but he will also eventually he can become completely independent. He can have get his own mono ski. If he comes up with friends and family, he could get in and out of this mono ski, get on and off the chairlift by himself. And then he is just another skier on the mountain. And it's not this big, unknown, I am able bodied. And my belief is that I like to experience what the clients are going through and how to ski. And so I've been on a mono ski, and I can load and unload independently. And I will tell you it is it gives a certain sense of freedom that is just it's so much fun. It's a different perspective. And I cannot say, say it strongly enough, So a bi ski is super fun, because it's it's more stable than a mono ski. And it's a little bit more forgiving. It can be skied independently, it's more typical that you see it being skied with some help from an instructor or another skier. And so a lot of times we will be, I'll be attached to the Moto ski by these long pieces of tubular webbing. And if they are pretty independent, they're able to make their turns, gain speed, slow down, do all the things they need to do on their own. If they don't have that ability, I can do a lot of that for them. I feel very strongly that I want everybody that comes walks in my door to be able to ski to the level of independence that they're really excited about. So I've had people that have one leg come in, and they really want to be completely independent. And so I grabbed a set of outriggers, which are basically crutches, with skis on the bottom of them. And we go out there on their one ski and they can be completely independent on one ski on the outriggers, or I've had people with when they come in who want to be want to have a little bit more support. And that's the level of independence that they want. And I can help them achieve that level of independence. That's it's really important to me that everybody gets gets to the point of independence of they're really excited and passionate about.

JoLynne Lyon:

Have you seen people move? You know, at the beginning of this conversation we talked about, you know, just getting out there. Have you seen people move from that introduction to becoming really passionate?

Alex:

Yes. Um, Yes, I have. This comes back from when I was working in Colorado. There was a young woman, a veteran that came in and she started out really slow and was learning how to mono ski and it was kind of an occasional thing. And after two, three seasons, she was up there almost every week. She had bought her own mono ski. She's she was really getting good getting on the blues, completely independent. It was Yeah, that was a really cool progress to see her get to that point.

JoLynne Lyon:

And when you say she was getting on the blues, is that level of difficulty or sorry, again, you know, for people that have no idea.

Alex:

Yes, the blue runs are the intermediate, beginner intermediate runs kind of depends on the ski area that you're at.

JoLynne Lyon:

So we've talked about skis. Can you give me a rundown on some of the other equipment that you have that people can try out?

Alex:

Yeah, so a ski bike. So we have, we have two ski bikes. And they are really fun pieces of equipment that are really pretty entertaining to use. It's, I mean, it's exactly what it says, it's a bike with handlebars and skis where the wheels would be and you see a lot more now out of resorts. But these ones are meant for adaptive use, so they're a little bit more basic. You can see them either with or without skis on your feet as well. And again, the same rules of skiing apply for a ski bike than it does for a regular stand skier or a bi- skier, or any any other kind of skiing. So we've got ski bikes, we've got stand up outriggers, which you wear on your arms and they have skis on the bottom. And that helps give some more support to people with balance issues. Or say they want to ski with their prosthetic if they have any amputation. It's also, those are also good for what we call three trackers. So that's a an amputee skiing on one leg. That's also, you can use those outriggers for your sit down skis as well. We have this really cool piece of equipment called a snow slider or ski legs. I want you to imagine a big H standing up. At the bottom of the H you've got regular skis, the top of the H you've got these forearm cuffs that you can rest your forearms and and then your legs go inside the two skis at the bottom. And that isfor people with balance issues, confidence issues, muscular dystrophy Angelman syndrome, I've used it for a very wide spectrum of people. There are limits to what this piece of equipment can do, because it's, you can't go like ski a black diamond or go off jumps with it. But it's a really cool piece of equipment that gives people confidence and lets them kind of understand how they slide on the snow and how they move. That's one that I would definitely recommend doing with an adaptive ski program. That's not one that I recommend just buying and putting your mom or there are some really great resources with this equipment throughout the state. There's a there's three adaptive programs down on the Salt Lake area. If we're talking about beginner stuff, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, for both of those, a really good thing that I've seen is you take just a basic walker that you would see any senior using, and we have mounted those on cross country skis. And what that does is it gives extra support for anybody with balance issues or that has, lacks confidence or anything like that. So that is really nice for both cross country skiing and snowshoeing. We also have a couple of sleds that are meant specifically for people to ... when cross country skiing or snowshoeing. And that's if you don't have use of your legs, aren't able to walk on the snow, anything like that. And it hooks up to my waist and then I walk and pull the person behind me. And it's still a great way to get outside. And then the final thing is adaptive cross country skis. So there, sit down skis with a skinny little ski underneath them and eat them. And they can push themselves with ski poles just like normal, just like any other cross country skier. But you're sitting down. There's a whole Paralympic sport based around adaptive cross country skiing, which is really cool. And then the final piece are is for ice skating for sled hockey. And they've got these sleds and have a couple of ice skating blades underneath them. And then they use use these two hockey sticks with picks underneath, push yourself with those and you can use the blades too if you're playing hockey, you would use them for the puck. But typically, if you're just pushing yourself, there's a lot of really cool equipment out there and anybody that has more questions or really wants to get their loved ones out on equipment like this or to experience stuff, I'm always happy to talk about this kind of stuff and point them towards other resources.

JoLynne Lyon:

Awesome. I have run through my list of questions. If there's anything else you'd like to tell me though. I'd love to know it.

Alex:

So we were talking about beginners and I'm mostly talking about getting outside and, and hiking and just the basics of staying safe and warm in the outdoors. The best activity to get started in as a beginner is snowshoeing. And then right after that is cross country skiing. A lot of people have the image of cross country skiing as fully latex speed suits, the very narrow skis, and just cruising and getting a big workout. It doesn't have to be like that I grew up cross country skiing, wearing old wool, snow pants and a neon green baseball cap. And it's a great way just to get outside and explore a meadow, make sure that you look in your area for what the restrictions are, and make sure that you're going in an approved area. But it's a great way just to get outside and adventure a little bit. And it's a great sport, especially for beginners if you don't want to take yourself too seriously. Because it's a very, it's very fun sport. And it's pretty consistent that The first time you cross country ski at least 45 times Just kidding, you fall at least once or twice. Yeah, and you know, I grew up with in the lake Lake Tahoe area, and we would go up park on the side of the road. And we go just on the powder, and it wasn't the groomed tracks and we were just kind of toodle along through these fields and then go up this little hill and try and go down the hill and stay standing without falling over and over again. And I have such fond memories because it wasn't about being on this really nice track with the people that take it so seriously. It was just about being outside and enjoying the snow and enjoying nature. So there's many phases of cross country skiing.

JoLynne Lyon:

And I appreciate the reminder, you know that it is about getting out there and enjoying it. It's you don't have to get competitive.

Alex:

Yep.

JoLynne Lyon:

Thank you for listening to Accessible Times, The UATP podcast, It's brought to you by the Utah Assistive Technology Program, part of the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University.