The sixth annual Winter Ski Clinic returns to Calabogie Peaks Resort this February. The clinic gives injured soldiers and veterans a chance to hit the slopes while gaining self-awareness and self-confidence.
During the week of Feb. 7 to 12, veterans and military members will gather in Calabogie for a week filled with sports, mentorship, peer bonding and of course, skiing. The Winter Ski Clinic welcomes all military members and veterans with injuries, both physical and mental. Spouses and family members are welcome and are integrated into the program. The Clinic is free for attendees.
“We try to recruit spouses or significant others in this week event to recognize that they are part of the rehabilitation program. So, the goal is not necessarily skiing here, but the goal is first of all to increase self-awareness and self-esteem along with confidence and developing peer and mentor relationships and ultimately maybe getting some smiles on these folks,” said Clay Dawdy, member of the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing and long-time organizer of the Clinic.
The week kicks off with a welcome ceremony where the participants meet the instructors and volunteers. Instructors are experienced and certified and come from across the country, some coming from as far as Santa Fe, New Mexico.
According to Dawdy, there is no pressure when it comes to skiing, and the attendees take baby steps because “we’re in the smile business, not the aggravation business.”
Each day consists of two hours of skiing in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. In between hitting the slopes, the group participates in various other sports and activities including yoga, adaptive swimming, and sledge hockey.
“The whole thing is trying to let soldiers actively partake in all areas and see what they can do with their new bodies,” noted Dawdy.
The Winter Ski Clinic also attracts many dignitaries and parliamentarians, typically including members of Veterans Affairs and Chief of the Defence Staff.
Since 2011, the Calabogie Winter Ski Clinic has welcomed more than 50 injured soldiers and veterans. The program claims that within one week the participants are able to work through the difficulties of training on new muscles and become independent skiers, and Dawdy says many of the military members and veterans who have attended over the years have written letters of appreciation stating the program has helped them regain confidence in many aspects. And the word is spreading. This year applications for participants have doubled from last year, with the highest number of attendees expecting to participate in the history of the Calabogie Winter Ski Clinic.
However, Dawdy says the participants aren’t the only ones who benefit from the clinic.
“There’s a reality here. The guys have given us a lot and from a volunteer perspective, it’s time to give back. When we go around, we can’t tell who’s smiling more: the skiers or the volunteers. We’re in it for the smiles, and it’s a giving back as well,” said Dawdy.
Similar clinics are held at Mount Washington in British Columbia, and an additional clinic was held in Nova Scotia in 2012.
The Winter Ski Clinic is organized by the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing. The non-profit has been around for over 30 years with more than 3,000 members across Canada. The goal of the organization is to enrich the lives of individuals living with disabilities through winter sports.