Skier uses success to spread the word on adaptive skiing

Sharing the thrills

Posted: Friday, February 11, 2005

 

  Bill Bowness, takes a turn at Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, near Tahoe City, Calif., Jan. 28, 2005. Browness, Injured in a car accident at the age of 18, relearned to downhill on a monoski at the Tahoe Adaptive Ski School at Alpine Meadows in 1989. Over the past 16 years, he has held nearly every position at the school, from student to volunteer to instructor to trainer and supervisor. AP Photo/Sierra Sun, Josh Miller

Bill Bowness, takes a turn at Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, near Tahoe City, Calif., Jan. 28, 2005. Browness, Injured in a car accident at the age of 18, relearned to downhill on a monoski at the Tahoe Adaptive Ski School at Alpine Meadows in 1989. Over the past 16 years, he has held nearly every position at the school, from student to volunteer to instructor to trainer and supervisor.

AP Photo/Sierra Sun, Josh Miller

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — In nearly every way, Truckee resident Bill Bowness is a remarkable skier.

Injured in a car accident at age 18, Bowness learned how to downhill again on a monoski at the Tahoe Adaptive Ski School at Alpine Meadows in 1989. Over the past 16 years, Bowness, 46, has held nearly every position at the school, from student to volunteer to instructor to trainer and supervisor.

In that time the only thing to outpace his skills on a monoski is his commitment to sharing his passion for the sport.

A member of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team from 1992 to 1997, Bowness went on to win Paralympic medals in the downhill, super G and slalom. The same competitive instinct that drove him to success on the race course also pushed him to take his teaching to another level.

As an instructor, Bowness has helped many skiers — disabled and able-bodied alike — learn to share his view that the mountains are a playground.

''My hobby turned into a job, which turned into a lifestyle,'' Bowness said of his progression from student to instructor.

Last year Bowness reached the pinnacle in an instructor's career with an appointment to the 24-member Professional Ski Instructors of America National Demonstration Team — an elite group of Alpine, Nordic and snowboard instructors who travel the country giving clinics to other professionals and help set the philosophy for ski and snowboard instruction nationwide.

''It's a dream job,'' Bowness said of the four-year demonstration team appointment. ''Not only for the work I do, but also for the potential of opening it up to disabled and adaptive members.''

''It starts off with one person,'' he said. ''So my job is just go out and hustle and really work myself to the bone so that in four years time there might be three or four (adaptive) members.''

Jim Smith, chair of the Professional Ski Instructors West adaptive committee, said having an adaptive skier on the demonstration team has been a long-term goal of the group.

''It's been something that we've been working toward,'' Smith said. ''As PSIA is evolving so that we have skiers, snowboarders, tele and adaptive folks all sliding together on the mountain, were just hoping to bring them all together. And this was a huge step toward making that happen.''

''More or less, (Bowness) is paving the way for this to be a permanent position,'' he said.

Philosophically, what adaptive skiers do on the hill is not very different from able-bodied skiers, according to Smith and Bowness.

With a Level II Alpine certification, Bowness likely will teach as many able-bodied clinics during the next four years as adaptive ones.

''Everything I do is going to have its roots in the standup world. What you're doing when you ski isn't much different than what I do,'' Bowness said. ''There are little idiosyncrasies about it, there are little subtleties that may be different, but for me to have a good enough knowledge of what a two-planker does out there is really the basis for what I do.''

For Haakon Lang-Ree, program director at the adaptive ski school, Bowness' versatility has been an asset for students.

''He's been pretty instrumental on the adaptive side in our region for years and years,'' Lang-Ree said. Bowness ''can teach or train anything. He's not limited to monoski,'' he said.

As an instructor, supervisor and trainer, Bowness has been helping to match students with instructors, observe lessons and give clinics on all topics related to alpine skiing. Now that he has been selected to the demonstration team, Lang-Ree said he hopes Bowness will continue to be an ambassador for the program at Alpine and for adaptive skiing in general.

''It's a pretty big honor,'' Lang-Ree said. ''That group of people is the top of the top nationally. So to have him on there is a huge honor. I think its kind of bringing the whole adaptive discipline into the spotlight for folks who have never been exposed to it.''



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