Vermont Adaptive, a non-profit organization that uses specialized equipment and knowledgeable staff and volunteers to help people of all levels of physical ability enjoy outdoor activities, unveiled a new ski lodge Friday at Pico Mountain, Vermont, USA. The facility will serve as a headquarters for the organization’s year-round activities, and also as a slope-side center to aid in helping people with disabilities to enjoy skiing.
Vermont Adaptive will share the modern top of the range, 560 square meters (6,000-square-foot) Andrea Mead Lawrence Lodge with another non-profit, the Pico Ski Education Foundation. It provides young ski racers with the resources to pursue their dreams. “Accessibility at ski areas is often limited,” said Sarah Will, a 12 time Paralympic ski champion, describing the boost the center will provide skiers with disabilities.
Erin Fernandez, the executive director of Vermont Adaptive, said several New England ski areas, including Loon Mountain and Mt. Sunapee in New Hampshire, have stand-out programs aimed at helping people with physical challenges such as paralysis or blindness to enjoy the slopes. “I think New England is ahead of the curve,” Fernandez said of the availability of adaptive winter sports in the region.
The group’s new Pico facility boasts specialized equipment, an elevator, wide door frames, a private care room, and a calming space for young people on the autism spectrum. “We’re trying to just invite everybody who wants to recreate here,” Fernandez said.
Vermont Officials say travelers with disabilities are a large and growing segment of the tourism market: “Those consumers are more numerous than most people would assume. It’s really important that we can attract a wide spectrum of people who want to enjoy outdoor activities” said Steve Cook, Vermont’s deputy tourism commissioner. Travelers with disabilities worldwide have countless billions of dollars to spend on travel, Will and Cook suggested, if they can be convinced the places they want to go can accommodate them. “Marketing to different audiences is something that we’re very familiar with doing. Travelers with disabilities tend to bring at least one other person with them on trips, perhaps more, and if they all feel well-accommodated, they may return to a destination” Cook said.