Edison Thomas with instructor Andy Mather waits at starting gate to compete in Silver Star Adaptive SnowSports annual Carter Classic. (Photo submitted)

Vernon volunteer earns national award

Andy Mather recognized for work with SSASS

Mo McColl

Special to The Morning Star

If you have met Andy Mather you likely know about Silver Star Adaptive SnowSports (SSASS).

This is because of Andy’s irrepressible dedication to the program and his belief that anyone who wants to experience the joy and thrill of skiing or snowboarding can, regardless of any physical or mental disability.

Andy was recently presented with the Karl Hilzinger Award at the 2018 Annual CADS Canadian Adaptive SnowSports (CADS) Festival Banquet held at Mont-Sainte-Anne Resort, Quebec, acknowledging his more than 25 years of exceptional service to CADS, BC Adaptive SnowSports (BCAS) and SSASS.

Related: New techniques and equipment gets everyone up on the slopes

Able to take early retirement, Andy moved to Vernon, attracted by SilverStar Mountain Resort’s great skiing. In 1993 his wife Kathie spotted a local paper ad requesting volunteers interested in teaching skiing to persons with a disability.

Andy was one of 10 original instructors at SilverStar trained by CADS and has been involved from the beginning of the North Okanagan Disabled Skiing Association (NODSA), through its transition into SSASS.

“I have witnessed the growth from a small group lead by Donna Carter and her daughter Danielle, to today where we have over 50 instructors and more than 100 local and visiting students.

“Andy is a ‘can do’ kind of guy who sees the positive in everything,” says Susan Hughes, Snowbility and Technical Development Manager at BCAS, who participated in nominating Andy for this award. “He always has something to contribute and share. And he is so committed to SSASS that he learned to snowboard so he could better meet the needs of instructors and students”.

Years ago Hughes met Karl Hilzinger, whom the award is named after. He was a professional football player who was involved in a horrific incident leaving him severely disabled including losing both legs. Despite his disabilities, he continued skiing and was very involved in CADS.

“Andy is SSASS” states Shon Thomas, father of one of Andy’s students. “For six years, Andy has been Edison’s devoted, capable and innovative instructor.”

When Edison began skiing he did not walk independently. Edison uses a special adaptive device, a Snow Slider, to ski and Thomas believes skiing was a huge factor on his being able to walk without assistance the spring after his first ski season.

Andy has worked tirelessly with Thomas, teaching him how to help his own son ski. Now both of Edison’s siblings ski with them.

“On ski days we are all excited and can’t get ready fast enough for Edison who is literally jumping with anticipation,” says Thomas. “Edison cannot speak but how he lights up when he sees Andy and his skis speaks volumes”

Andy was honoured to receive the Karl Hilzinger Award in front of his mentors, peers, and CADS board members but it is the impact on his students and their families that are most meaningful, such as the look on Edison’s face and knowing he has enabled a family to participate in the fun and bonding experience of skiing together.


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