Visually Impaired Enjoy Downhill Skiing With Help

By Trevor Keller | November 24, 2017


Weekends at Sunburst Ski Area in Kewaskum are the best time to witness Dan Lococo’s definition of a trust exercise. Lococo is legally blind, but that doesn’t stop him from strapping on skis and hitting the slopes. He participates in Wisconsin Blind Outdoor Leisure and Development, or B.O.L.D. It’s a non-profit program that gives people who are visually impaired the opportunity to experience outdoor sports, and that includes downhill skiing.

“They had a ski program and I thought, you know, if they’re crazy enough to teach somebody how to ski, I should be just as wild and do it,” Lococo said.

Skiers are accompanied by sighted guides like P.J. Smith, who helps steer Lococo up and down Sunburst’s biggest ski hill. Smith skis right behind Lococo, using voice commands to guide him in the right direction.

“When he’s skiing, he’s paying very close attention to my voice and when I call his turn change,” Smith said.

“Left-hand turn, right-hand turn, left-hand turn, and I follow those voice commands,” Lococo said.

If it takes bravery to barrel down a slope on skis, it takes trust to do it while blind.

“They know that my life is in their hands when they’re doing this, so that trust goes both ways. I have to trust them, but they trust me to what I’m supposed to do,” Lococo said.

Wisconsin B.O.L.D. was formed in 1977, and today they offer 26 different summer and winter activities across southeast Wisconsin. The program has given Lococo the chance to become a talented skier. It’s given guides like Smith the chance to meet people like Lococo.

“He is the most grounded person I know,” Smith said, “I’ve been doing this for 35 years at least and teaching skiing for longer than that so it becomes part of who you are. I wouldn’t know what to do if I wasn’t doing this,” Smith said.

“It builds confidence but it also builds bragging rights because that opportunity to say yeah, I ski and I ski downhill,’” Lococo said.

Trevor Keller

Trevor Keller

Trevor Keller is Executive Producer of “Wisconsin Life” for PBS Wisconsin. He loves photography and is always looking for a new Wisconsin park, trail or scenic overlook to explore.
2018-01-19T17:53:26-06:00Tags: , |

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