Waterville Valley – Kathy Chandler, the founder of Waterville Valley Resort’s adaptive ski program, will be inducted this year into the National Disabled Ski Hall of Fame.
The longtime educator was chosen in late 2012 to receive the prestigious award, which spotlights “individuals who have had an influential role in disabled sports as well as athletes who have excelled in disabled sports.”
Chandler was selected for this year’s award alongside Paralympist Muffy Davis, who won bronze and silver medals for skiing at the Paralympic Winter Games in 1998 and 2002 and most recently brought home three gold medals from the summer games in London for hand-cycling.
Chandler first became interested in adaptive skiing when, as a ski school director in Massachusetts, she realized that she wanted to be able to teach anybody who wanted to learn. She attended the first training clinic for adaptive skiing held in the East, and in 1992, she was recruited by Waterville Valley Resort to create its Adaptive Snowsports Program.
“It’s just a really positive place to be,” Chandler says of the program, taught on the slopes at Waterville Valley Resort. She and her instructors, and the volunteers they’ve trained, have taught students with all manner of challenges, physical and cognitive, as well as “wounded warriors,” severely injured service members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
“We teach people with amputations, spinal cord injuries, spina bifida – basically, our motto has always been, “If they can get to our door, we can teach them how to ski,’ ” she says.
Chandler started the program more than two decades ago with six volunteers; there are now 80. The first year, she and her fellow instructors taught 50 lessons; Adaptive Snowsports instructors now teach between 800 and 1,000 individual lessons each year.
Students come for a day, or for a week. Most come from New Hampshire and the surrounding New England states, Chandler says, but some have come from much farther away. “They’ve come from all over the world,” she says.
Chandler “is and has been a very positive force in the disabled community,” says Kathy Laffey of Disabled Sports USA, which, along with the National Sports Center for the Disabled, created the National Disabled Ski Hall of Fame. “Kathy is firm believer that if you teach one person, that person will teach five, those five will teach 25, those 25 will teach 200: Thousands of people have been educated on adaptive skiing through Kathy Chandler.”
Pete Weber, snowsports director at Waterville Valley Resort, says Chandler has been instrumental at a national level, working with the Professional Ski Instructors of America on setting standards and training instructors.
“To think of all the programs she helped create, all the students’ lives she has touched and all the many adaptive instructors she has made better – she deserves to be in this hall of fame,” Weber says.
For Chandler, satisfaction comes from seeing someone overcome his or her challenges and head down the slope for the first time.
“At the end of every day, every volunteer comes into the room just so excited about what they’ve done,” she says. “What other job is like that?”