- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

BOTTINEAU, N.D. (AP) - The coordinator of the adaptive program at Bottineau Winter Park isn’t idle these days, despite the green grass on the snow slopes.

Rachael Buss is helping the winter park expand its summer programming so people with disabilities can come out and enjoy the outdoors, the Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/28Or8hH ) reported.

“Summer programs have always been here. It’s really just getting them organized,” she said. “Archery is new this year. We are always looking for new ideas and getting new activities.”

Buss joined the winter park last October. As an employee of the Anne Carlsen Center in Jamestown, she is contracted to the winter park for its adaptive programs.

Buss has been with the Anne Carlsen Center, which provides services to people with disabilities, for nearly five years. While attending the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, the Minnesota native had worked in direct care to people with disabilities.

Her degree is in recreation and tourism. She said her original goal had been to become an event planner. A volunteer opportunity with Special Olympics caused her to shift her focus. She ended up taking therapeutic recreation classes and found herself on a course of education that now makes her job at the winter park a perfect fit.

Her first winter at Bottineau was “awesome,” she said. The park registered 204 different people who came to take advantage of adaptive programs, including some who came multiple times.

“It was great. I got to see skiers ski for the first time and then by the end of the winter, they were independently skiing down the ski hill,” she said.

The winter park also hosts the winter Special Olympics, providing snowshoeing, cross country and downhill skiing.

Buss admits she wasn’t much of a skier when she came on staff.

“I was a snowboarder,” she said. “I wasn’t a skier, but I have always been interested in recreation and outdoors.”

Learning to ski has been a necessity that she has embraced.

“I like trying new things,” she said. “There’s always room to grow.”

She said through her work in the summer adaptive program, she even learned to put a worm on a fish hook, although she’s not being particularly fond of worms. Summer activities at the park include include hiking, fishing, archery and science-based activities for kids, such as study of aquatic insects, bird watching and identification of animal tracks.

Buss is scheduling an activity one morning each month this summer that is designed to accommodate children with disabilities but also is open to children without disabilities. She keeps the adaptive program’s Facebook site posted with the latest upcoming events. Buss also coordinates activities for organizations serving people with disabilities that plan summer trips to the park.

The park is popular with disabled veterans. One program brings veterans once a month for archery and hiking, with a side trip to nearby Lake Metigoshe. In the winter, they enjoy skiing instead. The grant-funded program enables veterans to attend at no charge, including mileage and hotels.

Adaptive programs at the winter park typically are offered at no cost to the participants, thanks in large part to generous private donors.

Buss’ responsibilities include grant writing for the programs and equipment that have made the winter park and its Annie’s House lodge the envy of the adaptive skiing community. Trainers from major ski areas have been impressed with what Annie’s House offers, Buss said.

Among the newer equipment are track chairs, capable of handling hikes through winter or summer terrain. Buss said the winter park is seeking funding to accquire adaptive ski equipment suited to people who don’t require ski chairs but need some assistance. The equipment looks much like a ski bicycle.

The adaptive program operates largely with volunteers who donate their time not only in working with participants but in obtaining the instructor certification and continued education. Buss said the program has a strong base of volunteers, but there’s always turnover and she currently is recruiting. Positions are flexible to accommodate whatever time volunteers can give. Volunteers also help with summer programs.

Buss has been impressed with the level of support for the adaptive programs and with the people who participate in them.

“I have seen more and more what people can do and how well the adaptive equipment works and, sometimes, how little adaption people need,” she said. “I think it’s opened a lot of eyes about what people with disabilities can do.”

Another of the joys of working at the winter park has been the chance to spend her winters around people who enjoy winter recreation as much as she does. Last winter seemed to fly by, and although there’s much less traffic at the winter park in the summer, the serenity and scenery create a working environment like no other. Buss occasionally will move her phone and paperwork from her back office and settle into a lounge chair in front of the large windows overlooking the panorama of green hills and trees.

“You can’t beat it,” she said.


Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com

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