Foresight Ski Guides, Inc

Foresight Ski Guides needs YOU to help keep access to our research-supported, transformative program affordable. A donation to Foresight helps provide round trip transportation, lodging, lunch, activities and professional ski instruction for our youngest visually impaired participants (VIPs).

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Summer Camp for Blind Youth

Class

Recreation & Sports 

Beneficiaries

Adolescents/Youth (13-19 years)
Blind & Vision Impaired
Poor, Economically Disadvantaged, Indigent

Description

Foresight's new "Summer Camp for Blind Youth" provides challenge recreation opportunities for blind and visually impaired youth during the summer. Campers participate in stand up paddle boarding, hiking, team building activities, archery, fly fishing and rock climbing during the two-day camp. Each camper is paired with a Foresight volunteer guide who provides guidance and ensures the pair's safety during all activities.

MORE THAN JUST FUN IN THE MOUNTAINS!
Foresight's two-day summer camp is another opportunity for blind and visually impaired youth to practice skills identified in the National Agenda for the Blind's Expanded Core Curriculum. The ECC is a body of knowledge and skills that support blind and visually impaired students in every area of life. Foresight's ski program has incorporated these essential skills since its inception. The summer camp further reinforces them.

The Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC)
Foresight's Summer Camp for Blind Youth incorporates the following essential areas of the ECC:

• Self-Determination. Students develop confidence and pride as they conquer each activity. They take on a challenge, set a goal, and achieve it. Participants tell us they apply the determination developed through challenge recreation in other areas of their lives.

• Sports, Recreation, and Leisure Skill Development. Most public schools focus on team sports, leaving their visually impaired students with few safe and structured opportunities for exercise. As recommended by the ECC, Foresight's activities are carefully planned and taught, with a core focus on the development of life-long skills.

• Social Interaction Skills. Foresight participants must interact with a variety of new people: Foresight guides, activity instructors, other participants and people in hotels, retail stores and restaurants. Both the ski and summer camp atmospheres "force" participants to step outside their comfort zone and develop social skills through peer and instructor interactions. Many shy participants report they were "drawn out" by the more assertive ones.

• Physical Skill and Fitness Development. Visually impaired people are far more likely to be sedentary than the general population, exposing them to significant health risks. Guides talk about the importance of being in good physical condition to be better prepared to learn and enjoy all types of activities. Foresight's program, by design, exposes participants to activities that can be replicated with family and friends translating to a healthy lifestyle for life.

• Orientation and Mobility. Youth attending Foresight's summer camp must negotiate a variety of locations and terrain all in a setting that is unfamiliar to them. They walk on sidewalks, grass, and a sandy beach. They paddle on water, navigate rocky hiking trails, and negotiate down hotel hallways and even their hotel room. They may even ride a bus or walk around the Towns of Avon or Vail. These kids are bombarded with sensory input regarding balance and movement, and they learn to control their bodies in a completely new way that directly addresses critical orientation and mobility skills.

• Sensory Efficiency skills. Students soon learn that they need to incorporate new sensory skills when communicating with guides, instructors and other campers. The students have totally new kinesthetic experiences while learning to glide across the water on a paddle board, hike a trail in the woods, or shoot an arrow at a target. Students find this experience exhilarating.

• Independent Living Skills. Foresight's summer camp includes an overnight stay in the Vail Valley. Youth are provided with the opportunity to practice their independent living skills as they learn to prepare for the day's activities and leisure time. Management of their clothing, equipment and possessions all become very important skills. Interacting with shuttle drivers, front desk clerks, servers at restaurants, and housekeeping staff are all new learning opportunities, and students soon discover how to become more independent while traveling.

Foresight's Summer Camp for Blind Youth provides opportunities for blind and visually impaired youth to break down barriers, build self confidence and increase self esteem all while developing friendships with other kids who are just like them.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

Ryan is 11-years old and attended Foresight's inaugural summer camp in June of 2021. Ryan had experience paddle boarding but she had never actually stood up before. She had always paddled from her knees. Ryan's goal at Foresight's camp was to stand up. Ryan and her guide paddled out into the middle of the lake. With some coaching and encouragement from her Foresight guide, Ryan was able to stand up and paddle around without falling into the water. She was thrilled to have reached her goal.

12-year old Rose was scared to rock climb. She was afraid of falling off the rock. Her Foresight guide and rock climbing instructor assured her that she was securely harnessed and would not fall. After some coaxing and reassurance Rose began slowly climbing up the rock wall face. In no time Rose was at the top of the rock face with a big smile on her face.

Blind Skier Program

Class

Recreation & Sports 

Beneficiaries

Blind & Vision Impaired
Poor/Economically Disadvantaged
Adolescents/Youth (13-19 years)
Adults
Children (4-12 years)

Description

THE FORESIGHT EXPERIENCE
Foresight offers downhill skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing, all tailored to each Visually Impaired Participant's (VIP's) interest and level of experience. VIPs can participate at Vail and Beaver Creek. Each VIP is partnered with a specially trained volunteer guide who uses clear, precise verbal instructions and terrain descriptions such as the type and level of the grade, the direction of the trail, snow conditions, the presence of other riders, and other obstacles, to safely guide the VIP down the mountain. Our guides are trained on how much is too much communication and how much is the right amount to keep the VIP safe. A "shadow" follows behind the team to "expand the bubble" and keep approaching skiers and riders from causing disruptions.

Foresight requests a minimum voluntary contribution from its participants of $100 - $500 depending on the number of days skiing, which includes the guide, shadow, lift tickets and equipment rental, transport, and deeply discounted lodging. However, this modest fee is waived when the participant cannot afford to pay. Similar programs charge up to $1000 for one day on the mountain with a trained guide. Foresight encourages VIPs to participate for multiple days, as this increases the challenges that can be provided, focuses the teaching moments that can be experienced, and expands the opportunities to increase skills and confidence. VIPs are encouraged to bring friends and family with them to share the experience.

While our structured program for students has been growing significantly - children now constitute more than 60 percent of our participants - it is still important for us to welcome individuals and families as Foresight is one of only a handful of affordable recreation opportunities for blind and visually impaired skiers and snowboarders.

MORE THAN JUST A FUN DAY ON THE MOUNTAIN!
Students with visual impairments have unique disability-specific educational needs that go far beyond Braille and audio books. Leaders and experts in the field have developed a body of knowledge and skills that support blind and visually impaired students in every area of life. This Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) has been adopted by the U.S. Department of Education as the National Agenda for the Blind. Without the ECC blind and visually impaired students are, on average, three years behind or less developed than their sighted counterparts at the time they graduate from high school. Foresight has been incorporating these essential skills into its program since its inception - long before we were aware that the ECC existed.

The Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC)
The Foresight Ski Program incorporates the essential areas of the ECC as follows:

• Self-Determination. Students develop confidence and pride as they begin to ski. They have taken on a challenge, set a goal, and achieved it. Participants who skied two or three times during the season told our evaluator, Dr. Paula Conroy, that the challenge of skiing empowered them to be more independent in other areas of their life.

• Sports, Recreation, and Leisure Skill Development. The majority of public schools focus on team sports, leaving their mainstreamed visually impaired students with few safe and structured opportunities for exercise. As recommended by the ECC, FSG's activities are carefully planned and taught, with a core focus on the development of life-long skills.

• Social Interaction Skills. Foresight participants must deal with a variety of new people, particularly ski instructors, ski guides, and people in hotels, rental shops, retail stores and restaurants. In her evaluation report, Dr. Conroy noted that "The participants all discussed their lack of comfort in initiating conversations with others. This ski opportunity reportedly "forced" them to establish a relationship with their guide. They had to develop trust before skiing, so it was to their benefit to get to know the individual guide. The group atmosphere of the ski experience was also beneficial in developing social skills by encouraging peer interaction. The shy participants were drawn out by the more assertive ones."

• Physical Skill and Fitness Development. Visually impaired people are far more likely to be sedentary than the general population, exposing them to the significant health risks. FSG has instituted physical fitness skill development as a mandatory component of our programs-students are much more prepared to learn and enjoy skiing when they are in good physical condition, and this also translates to a healthy lifestyle off the mountain.

• Employability/Career Education. This has been the most popular addition to our program. The American Foundation for the Blind notes that "the disadvantage facing the visually impaired learner is the lack of information about work and jobs that the sighted student acquires by observation." Our participants have welcomed the lectures by local business professionals and program VIPs because they included information about real people with visual impairments and other disabilities who are holding down real jobs in the business world. The lecturers all talk with the children about the importance of attitude in "employability" and help them understand what is involved in a college application or a job interview. These are basic acquirements for sighted students, but a huge barrier for those who are blind or visually impaired.

• Orientation and Mobility. In Vail, the students must ride the city buses or walk. They must learn to negotiate their way through a large resort hotel, the ski lodge, rental shop, and village-before they get to navigate the mountain on a pair of skis! They are bombarded with sensory input regarding balance and movement, and they learn to control their bodies in a completely new way that directly addresses critical orientation and mobility skills.

• Sensory Efficiency skills. Students soon learn that they need to incorporate new sensory skills when communicating with guides, instructors and other skiers. The students have totally new kinesthetic experiences while learning to glide downhill on skis-coupled with the feel of cool crisp mountain air and the noise of the skis crunching in the snow. Students find this experience exhilarating.

• Compensatory or Functional Academic Skills. Our program welcomes all participants-high-achieving academically successful students as well as those with cognitive and developmental concerns. The inclusion of children with more complex disabilities requires additional staff and volunteer involvement, as well as one-on-one instruction from a Vail adaptive ski instructor, but the results for the child and his or her family can be life-changing. FSG works closely with the Teacher's of the Visually Impaired to ensure that each child's level of function is clearly understood and accommodated so that we can support their academic and physical goals.

• Independent Living Skills. For young adult VIPs in middle and high school grades, the FSG ski program may involve overnight stays in the Vail Valley and students are provided the opportunity to address their independent living skills as they learn to prepare for both skiing and leisure time. Management of their clothing, equipment and possessions all become very important skills. Dealing with bus drivers, front desk clerks, bell service, dining, and housekeeping are all new learning opportunities, and students soon learn how to become more independent while traveling.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

Dr. Paula Conroy, Associate Professor of Special Education at the University of Northern Colorado, worked with us during the 2015/2016 season to begin to evaluate how our ski program equips students with the essential components of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC). Dr. Conroy interviewed 20 students plus their teachers and parents before and after the ski program experience. The report confirmed that FSG ski programs match up extremely well with the instruction of blind children in the Expanded Core Curriculum. Depending on the individual VIPs, the FSG program can have more impact on one particular area of the ECC than the others. For example, one student may benefit from social skill instruction on a ski trip, another may benefit from using orientation and mobility skills to explore a very new and different environment, while another student may simply fall in love with the sport of skiing. We learned that the social benefits were especially important for the children mainstreamed in public schools. Dr. Conroy noted that: "Many times individuals with visual impairments may be the only one in their entire school or even city with this diagnosis. Meeting someone with the same challenges in life can be very supportive and improve one's self-perception. Parents reported that this was, perhaps, one of the most important aspects of this trip for their child."


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