For most people, the sensation of wind rushing through their hair is often taken for granted.
However, for people who rely on a wheelchair to live, the simple pleasure of such a common experience can be life changing.
Few people know this better than Samuel Peters, who spent the first seven years of his life either being carried by his parents or in a wheelchair.
Born requiring an above-knee amputation to both his legs, Samuel has spent the past six years learning how to sit-ski thanks to Powder Hounds and People in Motion, a non-profit organization with more than 60 volunteers who give people with sensory or physical disabilities the chance to enjoy the sport of skiing with adaptive equipment.
“As you can imagine, with the mobility difference feeling the wind in your hair is something that’s really rare,” said Samuel, who is now 12 years old.
Unlike able-bodied children who can freely participate in extracurricular activities, the number of programs tailored toward disabled children in the Okanagan is limited.
In 2019, through the work of the Community for All Action Plan, the City of Kelowna was recognized as an age-friendly B.C. community from the province’s ministry of health.
The plan not only targets senior citizens, but includes helping children with diverse abilities, however, there are still very few programs tailored to kids living with disabilities.
“There are sports classes here and there but they’re usually tailored towards adults, which makes sense because there are typically are more adults in wheelchairs than kids,” said Samuel’s father Steven.
“It all started when we had one of the Powder Hounds volunteers approach my wife and I while we were shopping for groceries and tell us about the services they were providing.”
For many adaptive skiers, sit-skiing is not an individual sport.
It’s a sport that requires the support of a strong and knowledgeable team at every stage of learning.
“We were actually very nervous to start at first because Sam was little at the time,” said Steven.
From rolling his way through life to shredding fresh powder, Samuel has improved tremendously since his first time hitting the slopes in 2014.
“It was a challenge, everything was brand new. Even just sitting upright and maintaining balance was new for me,” said Samuel.
“I like activities I can overcome and get really good at.”
The volunteers at Powder Hounds started Samuel out fairly simply. Once he started using his own outriggers, which help him steer his sit-ski, he continued to progress.
“He then upgraded to using a tether. A tether allows a volunteer to steer or stop him if it is really necessary and just last year he graduated from the tether, so now he’s independently skiing for the first time this season,” said Steven.
Like many individuals with diverse abilities, Samuel doesn’t think what he is doing is inspiring, but instead believes he’s just trying to do something other people do in a different way.
Samuel said he plans to continue improving his sit-skiing skills and maybe tackle a few jumps when he’s older.
“It’s all about going faster and trying to have a really good time in a safe way.”