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Inclusive Spokane program helps people get on the slopes

Therapeutic Recreation Services gives people living with disabilities to participate in winter sports.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Bitter cold wind, blinding white snow and gorgeous views are the staples of skiing and snowboarding during an Inland Northwest winter. But for some people, getting that experience is difficult.

For people living with disabilities, it's not as simple as strapping on boots and zipping down the mountain. But the City of Spokane has been trying to make it easier for them for decades.

The 2020 Therapeutic Recreation Service season is year 40 of the program that uses specific skiing and snowboarding technology to get dozens of people with disabilities down Mt. Spokane's slopes. The city has equipment that helps people balance on traditional skis, or boards that are equipped with chairs for people who cannot stand.

Ultimately, the goal is to teach anyone with any disabilities how to get down the mountain.

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"That's really what we love. We love teaching somebody how to do this so that they can go play with their friends and their family and have a blast," said Alice Busch, recreation supervisor for the City of Spokane.

One man did exactly that last year.

"Just yesterday [they] called me and said they bought their own piece of equipment. So, they're going to take a couple more lessons from us and then they're going to be on their own," Busch said.

Almost 100 people are able to take advantage of the program over the course of the winter season. 

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But the city can't run it alone. They need volunteers to help train and get every student down the mountain safely.

Training for volunteers starts Friday at 6 p.m.  If hitting the slopes does not sound ideal, the program also needs donations to work every year. 

"It's pretty fun. I love seeing parents go 'oh my gosh, I never thought my child could do this. Now we can go on a vacation together as a family.' So yeah, that's why we do it," Busch said.

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