Sometime in early January, the first participants in Double H Ranch’s Adaptive Winter Sports Program will begin arriving at Double H’s facility in Lake Luzerne. The program offers children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses the opportunity to participate in downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. Around 30 children per day typically participate in the program, which runs every winter weekend from January through March. Most children participate for 3 or 4 days over the course of the winter, and five Family Sleepover Weekends allow the entire family to participate in winter sports together.
The program takes place on Double H’s ski slopes, which are equipped with a double chairlift and snowmaking. Like all programs at Double H, the Adaptive Winter Sports Program is offered completely free of charge to participants, and thousands of children and their families have been served since the program’s inception in 1998.
Double H’s program has been remarkably successful, with participating families enthusing about the sense of accomplishment, warmth, and joy that participants experience. The word “magical” comes up a lot. “We are so profoundly grateful for the opportunity to feel the magic of Double H,” wrote one family. “The weekend made a huge impact on all six of us. The welcome, the warmth, and the pride that we all felt was transformative. To see Zak, with hemophilia, skiing and knowing that he was learning in a safe environment, and beaming on the slopes, on his skis, skiing faster than his mom, with two talented and kind instructors, made me want to cry from joy!”
Just as remarkable is the enthusiasm of Double H’s volunteers. Dave Theobald, a volunteer from Ballston Lake told me “This will be my third winter, and I can’t say enough about the program. It helps me stay grounded with what life’s all about. My passion is skiing and helping people. Ever since I became involved with Double H’s winter program, I have the best of both!”
The volunteer ski instructors and National Ski Patrol allow Double H to provide a one-to-one support ratio for participants, who suffer from conditions such as HIV/AIDS, cancer and cerebral palsy. All equipment is provided by Double H, including adaptive equipment such as sit-skis. There are more skiers in the program than snowboarders, but the number of snowboarders is growing. Peg Nelson of Gansevoort, another volunteer, described working with one snowboard participant. “I had a boy who wanted to snowboard, and he had never been on a chairlift before. I worked with him and we got him riding the chairlift and going down the hill on his snowboard the first day. It was just so inspiring and exciting. When people say that Double H is a magical place, it truly is. Until people experience it first hand, they can’t understand how special it is.”
With the start of the Adaptive Winter Sports Program just over a month away, Double H is looking to round out its roster of volunteers, particularly ski and snowboard instructors and National Ski Patrol. Nancy Driscoll, a volunteer from Niskayuna, told me “My motivation to volunteer is a selfish one – I truly get more than I give! The children are courageous & inspiring, the volunteers are generous & kind, and the Double H staff is a group of people that I just love to be around! Double H keeps my life in balance!”
To learn more about Double H Ranch and their Adaptive Winter Sports Program, including information about volunteering, contact them at (518) 696-5676 or visit their website .
Photos courtesy Double H Ranch
Jeff Farbaniec is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures.