Ski Patrollers Help Veterans at the Skiway

News subtitle

The adaptive ski program is rehabilitating—and rewarding.

Colton Carlson packing up his monoski
Colton Carlson ’21, who served as a Marine infantry team leader in Afghanistan, packs up his monoski after participating in last week’s Skiway event. (Photo by Katie Lenhart)

Members of the Dartmouth Ski Patrol last month joined with wounded veterans in two adaptive sports days along the slopes of the Skiway, a program that helps with their rehabilitation.

Organized by the White River Junction VA Medical Center, a teaching affiliate of the Geisel School of Medicine, more than 20 veterans, both new skiers and volunteers, participated in the Feb. 20 and Feb. 27 events at the Skiway. It’s the second year the Ski Patrol and Skiway participated in the adaptive sports program for veterans.

“This has been an unbelievable program that has started for the veterans and the students. The rehabilitation that happens through sport is such a unique modality that the VA uses, and we are so lucky to have Dartmouth as a partner in this journey,” says Jennifer Stark, a recreation therapist for the VA.

One of the members of the Ski Patrol, Katherine Takoudes ’24, says she skied with a Navy veteran named John who uses a sit-ski due to his limited mobility.

“Throughout my four hours at the Skiway with John, I learned how to load and deload the sit-ski from the lift and control the sit-ski with tethers. Beyond the technical skills, I also got to learn about John, his time in the Navy, and his life since during our chairlift rides and mid-trail breaks,” Takoudes says.

“I appreciated his patience as I was learning to operate the sit-ski as we took quite a few falls together.”

Takoudes notes that it’s also important for ski patrollers to learn how to use and operate “all types of ski devices” they might encounter on the slopes.

“As an Army veteran and patroller myself, the synergy between these two groups was amazing, and we look forward to continuing this new tradition next year,” says James Geiling, a Geisel professor of medicine.

“It’s a great thing for students to interact with the veterans, and for the veterans to interact with the students,” says Michael Cather, a registered nurse and clinical educator in the VA emergency department who is also a member of the Ski Patrol.

And Cather, himself a Coast Guard veteran, says that the VA has an ethos that veterans helping other veterans “has a therapeutic value in and of itself.”

John P. Gregg