Dan Miller on the slopes of snowy Mount Washington. (Photo submitted)

Dan Miller on the slopes of snowy Mount Washington. (Photo submitted)

Vancouver Island volunteers making winter fun through Adaptive Snowsports

Program at Mount Washington always in need of more volunteers

The current ski season is rapidly heading toward its conclusion at the end of March, but a Chemainus man wants to let people know about the constant need for more volunteers and instructors in a specialized program.

Dan Miller is the advertising and promotion coordinator on the board of directors for the Vancouver Island Society for Adaptive Snowsports.

Miller and his family frequent the Mount Washington Alpine Resort throughout the weekends during the winter months and he’s been involved with VISAS for about six years.

“I was skiing with my kids,” he explained. “I got chatting with one of the instructors. He told me what a great program it was. It turned out to be an incredible passion for me now.”

The program goes all the way back to the early 1960s when a small group of dedicated outdoor enthusiasts, led by the legendary Herb Bradley, began offering ski instruction at the old Forbidden Plateau Ski Lodge for people with various physical disabilities and cognitive challenges.

The Vancouver Island Skiing for the Disabled Society was established in 1992 at Mount Washington as a non-profit, charitable society. Volunteer instructors have taught hundreds of students how to ski and snowboard ever since.

Now known as the VISAS program, it has grown in recent years to a strong and dedicated team, supported by the Mount Washington operations staff.

VISAS provides certified instructors to teach those with diverse abilities, six years of age and older, how to cross-country ski, downhill ski, sit-ski or snowboard. Instruction and adaptive equipment for those requiring it is free of charge. All instructors and students must be members of BC Adaptive Snowsports.

Miller has seen first-hand so many times the benefits of the program and is always anxious to spread the word about it.

“They go through so much in a day to do the things we all take for granted,” he said of participants.

“Literally anybody who needs a little help to get on the mountain, we’ll find a way to help you.”

There are usually more than 100 volunteers and instructors, but Miller said VISAS is running with about 67 this season after some opted out.

“A lot of our older instructors decided not to come back,” he noted. “We’re always trying to find new instructors.”

The season starts in October so it’s a chance for people to think about making a commitment for the year ahead if they have any spare time to help provide an experience that means so much to so many.

“Even if we get one person, it’s a bonus,” said Miller.

Anyone interested in finding out more can check out the organization’s website at www.visasweb.ca or on Facebook under Vancouver Island Society for Adaptive Snowsports.

SnowSports