Reflections of a Ski for Light Veteran

Fall 2012 | By George Wurtzel

The mission of Ski for Light is to enhance the quality of life and independence of visually or mobility-impaired adults through a program of cross country skiing. The following piece written by George was included in the Fall, 2012 Ski for Light newsletter.

It has been more than 25 years since SFL has been held in my home state of Michigan and I am sure that everyone will have a great time. I have skied many times at the venue, so I know firsthand what a terrific site it is and I plan to join you there after a 30-year absence from SFL.

My Ski for Light story started a long time ago in Lansing, Michigan with a Norwegian man named Harold Brunvand, who one day showed up at the Michigan School for the Blind and asked, "who wants to go cross-country skiing?"

About 10 of us went that first time in early 1971 or '72. I remember the events of that day, and I know I would not be the same person that I am today if I had stayed home.

Because of my involvement with Ski for Light, I have traveled all over the country and to many interesting places around the world. I have met some of the most wonderful people who walk the earth - people who were extremely generous with their time and gave their love and kindness to others - people who do things for no other reason than because they want the world to be a more inclusive place for all. These people who did not want any more in return for what they did besides to see a smile on someone's face--people who love to ski love to play and share their enjoyment of life to the fullest with all who come.
Harold Brunvand got me skiing and skiing got me going.

I went to the Colorado Lions ski event in Aspen, Colorado every year for 4 or 5 years in a row. I met fantastic people Like Peter Mains, Harry Cordellos (the first blind man to do the Iron Man). I met John Amear and learned to ski downhill as fast as gravity could pull me.

Ski for light also gave me an opportunity to meet some pretty incredible other blind people. And it gave me a way to meet a lot of people in my hometown who I would never have met until I was out skiing with my friends.

I started skiing all the local ski races and found out even though I was blind I was an above-average skier. I saw by the race results that I was finishing in the top half of the pack.

I cannot write this without talking about some of the best people I have had the honor to know. In the early days of Ski for Light, folks around SFL would have been Olav Pedersen, the father of Ski for Light in our country; the Brunvands, Harold and his son Dick; my very dear friend, Judy Dixon and a lot of people who I never got to tell how much of an impact they had on me. Bud Keith, Oral Miller, Laura Oftedahl, crazy kids like David Waite, Denis Carney, my best employee and great giver of his time Scott Clair, and truly hundreds of people who touch my life in small and big ways. And, there is Kathy Emig, who I dragged into ski for light who gave a lot and is still giving. The 1980 Ski for Light International event, held in Traverse City would have never happened if it had not been for her wonderful help.

Skiing has taken me to events in Colorado, Michigan, California, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, and internationally to Canada, Norway, Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark. The shortest ski trip I remember was taking my nephew on my back around the backyard. The longest trip was over 500 miles across northern Europe starting on the Russian border and skiing all the way across Lapland. I have truly skied thousands of miles and hundreds of races and events. And through skiing, have met thousands of people. I was honored to be on the Paralympic team in 1980 representing our country and skiing in Geilo, Norway.

So, if you ever wondered how skiing could change your life, you can see that it has made me a world traveler, explorer, fun-lover, and collector of fantastic friends, all of whom helped shape me into the person I am today.

There are no words that I can use to convey all the thanks I have for all the people who work just to see a smile on a face and the thought that just going skiing can change a person's whole life.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart to all the people who are helping to make skiing fun for people and a fond remembrance to all of our fellow skiers who are no longer with us.