By Katy Savage
Helen and Emmett Norton, who are lifelong skiers, didn’t know if they’d ever be able to take their daughter on the snow.
Their daughter, Erin, has cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. She’s non-verbal and is in a wheelchair.
When Erin was 10, Helen saw an ad in a local newspaper for adaptive skiing in Sugarbush Resort. She called the number on the ad and brought Erin to Sugarbush the next day to take her down the mountain in a sit ski.
“The weather was terrible. It was snowing, it was blowing. It was probably 10 degrees,” Helen said. “We went up there with no expectations.”
Erin had frost in her eyebrows and her cheeks were pink, but when Erin’s father suggested they go inside, Erin shook her head “no.”
“She shook her head ‘no’ very, very adamantly,” Helen said. “She was beaming and laughing so hard.”
“Then we knew she was hooked,” Emmett said.
Over the years, the Nortons have worked with Vermont Adaptive and learned how to take Erin in an adaptive ski by themselves.
Now, Erin, 26, cruises down bumps and jumps with her father behind her. “She is able to do pretty much any terrain,” Helen said.
The family from Woodstock has been actively involved in Vermont Adaptive since. They were surprised when Vermont Adaptive gifted Erin a new Dynamique Bi Skis bike during a demo day on Friday, March 18. The bike retails for about $5,500.
“It was quite a lovely gift and a wonderful surprise to our family,” Helen said. The new sit ski, which allows Erin to sit down and strap in, has shock absorption with a spring that can easily be loaded onto a chairlift, and more padding.
“It’s going to make it a lot easier to ski with Erin,” Helen said.
Vermont Adaptive bought the ski with the help of a $30,000 grant from The Hartford. The grant enabled Vermont Adaptive, a member of the Move United Network, to purchase four sit skis — two Monique Mono Skis and two Dynamique Bi Skis.
Erin has skied 45 days this winter. She’s a regular at Suicide Six, where she know every bump on the mountain.
“Before you get there her left hand will go up,” Helen said. “She knows where they are.”
Helen said skiing gives Erin the experience of gravity — a different sensation from her wheelchair.
“This allows her to feel the wind, the air, the ups and downs,” Helen said. “A lot of people with disabilities don’t even have the ability to get out of their homes.”
The Nortons gifted Erin’s old ski to another family in need so they too can “do the things other people take for granted,” Helen said.