Special Olympics of North Carolina Athletes Hit the Slopes at Appalachian Ski Mountain

Published Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at 5:56 pm

 By Jessica Isaacs | jessica@highcountrypress.com

Special Olympics of North Carolina Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding at Appalachian Ski Mountain on Jan. 3, 2016. Photo by Josh Easterling.

Photo by Josh Easterling.

More than 150 athletes hit the slopes at Appalachian Ski Mountain on Sunday for the annual Special Olympics of North Carolina Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding events.

ASM’s French-Swiss Ski College, which helped establish the winter games in the southeast in the late 1970s, hosted the event.

Special Olympics at ASM

Jim Cottrell, president of the French-Swiss Ski College, served on the Special Olympics international advisory board in 1977 when skiing and snowboarding were added to the program’s events.

“The Special Olympics are Olympic in nature. They’re modeled after Olympic sports,” Cottrell said. “Since skiing and snowboarding are Olympic sports, it just fit right into their program. The difference, though, between them and track and field events, are that winter sports seem to have a more lasting impact in people’s minds.”

Cottrell and his team helped bring the inaugural southeast region winter games to ASM and the French-Swiss Ski College. Later, they literally wrote the book on competitive winter sports for the Special Olympics program.

“We started it, basically. We created the first regional Special Olympics winter games to happen anywhere in the world,” Cottrell said. “We figured out how to do it effectively and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who was the head of the Special Olympics, came down here and saw our games and asked us to write the coaching manuals on how to do it. They modeled all of the programs after what we started here in the late ’70s, and that’s how they conduct the system now worldwide.”

The training concept behind the Special Olympics event at ASM has also influenced the way the ski college works with all winter sport trainees.

“We have found that our methodology that works with people with intellectual disabilities works very well with the general public, as well. Our teaching system and our instructor training programs teach how to deal with the individual differences in people without taking anything for granted,” Cottrell said. “You have to be very systemic with the approach of teaching a person to ski, and you can’t assume they know how to do certain things. It has been instrumental in our teaching system.”

The southeast regional games have been held annually since 1977 at the French-Swiss Ski College, and the event now brings 300-350 athletes to ASM for training each year.

Special Olympics of North Carolina Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding at Appalachian Ski Mountain on Jan. 3, 2016. Photo by Josh Easterling.

Photo by Josh Easterling.

Eventually, the games at ASM were separated into two events — a North Carolina event, like the one held on Sunday, and the regional event, which will take place in February.

SONC Alpine Skiing & Snowboarding: Jan. 3, 2016

Sunday’s events featured about 155 total athletes, 120 from North Carolina and others from South Carolina and Virginia, whose states do not host winter sports events.

“We had nice weather on Sunday afternoon and good snow, and then we got the snow flurries and the 18-degree temperatures — but the athletes just stayed right out there,” Cottrell said. “They competed and had a large time. Everyone finished their events and they braved the hardships of that wind and extremely cold weather and it was a very successful event.”

Cottrell said the ski college shares an important philosophy with the Special Olympics organization, agreeing that winter sports are a great way for anyone to learn something new, reach new heights and explore the endless possibilities for things they can achieve.

“That’s what the Special Olympics are all about — giving people an opportunity to experience various sports. Through sports, it improves their health and their confidence,” Cottrell said. “The Special Olympics have pretty much changed the perception of intellectual disabilities worldwide. People who were once perceived as unable to do anything are now seen as individuals who can succeed in many things.”

ASM, the French-Swiss Ski College and the SONC will host the Southeast Alpine competition Feb. 7-9, which will draw athletes from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. All competition events will be free and open to the public.

Athletes who competed in Sunday’s Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding events at ASM represented North Carolina counties and agencies including:

  • Avery County
  • Beaufort-Hyde
  • Buncombe
  • Cabarrus
  • Catawba
  • Cleveland
  • Davidson
  • Forsyth
  • Gaston
  • Guilford/Greensboro
  • Guilford/High Point
  • Iredell
  • The J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center
  • Johnston
  • Mecklenburg
  • Orange
  • Wake
  • Watauga

Visit specialolympics.org or sonc.net for more information about the Special Olympics organization and the Special Olympics of North Carolina.

 

Special Olympics of North Carolina Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding at Appalachian Ski Mountain on Jan. 3, 2016. Photo by Josh Easterling.

Photo by Josh Easterling.

Special Olympics of North Carolina Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding at Appalachian Ski Mountain on Jan. 3, 2016. Photo by Josh Easterling.

Photo by Josh Easterling.

Special Olympics of North Carolina Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding at Appalachian Ski Mountain on Jan. 3, 2016. Photo by Josh Easterling.

Photo by Josh Easterling.

sonc07Special Olympics of North Carolina Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding at Appalachian Ski Mountain on Jan. 3, 2016. Photo by Josh Easterling.

Photo by Josh Easterling.

 

 

 

 

 

Special Olympics of N.C. Fall Athletes

Check out this video highlight fall athletes published by SONC:

 

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