Jirinia Fric

Instructor 10+ years

Since the early 1990’s, I have been volunteering with Bogus Basin in many different functions. I began volunteering with Recreation Unlimited (RU) one year when there was a need for new, especially seasoned instructors. Given my love for and experience in teaching university courses, my passion for skiing and helping people to live more enjoyable life,  I figured it would be perfect fit for both me and RU.

While the teaching part came easily, I felt inexperienced working with people with disabilities. But through taking courses and certifications and providing hands-on teaching for about ten years, I gained a better insight of what our students go through.  I realized quickly that I could make their life more enjoyable, even if it was only for a few hours of weekend skiing. In some cases, the skiing skills of our RU students become so well developed, that students begin skiing unassisted with their families or even alone independently. Learning to ski brings valuable skills, new friends, and more hope into the students’ everyday lives because they accomplish a seemingly impossible goal.

One of the RU students, Ben comes from a Hispanic immigrant family. Ben and his younger brother are both under the age of ten and suffer from a severe form of autism. Ben’s parents are still learning the English language to become acclimated in their new country all while raising their children to the best of their abilities. Ben’s first day on the snow was full of challenges (lightly said) from adjusting to wearing a helmet, boots and the weird sticks we called “skis.” But after persistent, carefully managed instructions and a few tears, Ben was riding the magic carpet with only minor help from me.  I still remember when he realized he was doing it, his face lit up and big smile covered his face. When his mom came to take him home, he did not want to leave. It was funny since we started with tears and not wanting to come out of the lodge and only a short time later he did not want to stop skiing. Over the duration of the season, Ben realized that he would be coming back the next weekend and it became something for him to look forward during his week of school and therapy. The feeling was mutual for me as well. During the week, I found myself thinking about how to make the next lesson more challenging, yet enjoyable so Ben could become a stronger and better skier.

RU first offered a scholarship to Ben and then the next year his younger brother was able to join in. There will be a day that both brothers will be skiing with each other and possibly even without an instructor being present. RU’s goal is to create and develop skills that student can use for rest of their lives. Not only are they learning to ski, but outside of the program the students are accomplishing their dreams by following RU’s motto: “If I can do this I can do anything.”