Genesee Community College Instructor in Arcade Helps Special Needs Skiers Take to the Slopes

When Mary Lyn Nutting, an Associate and an adjunct art professor at Genesee Community College’s Arcade Campus Center returned to Western New York fifteen years ago, she decided it was time to start skiing again, something she hadn’t enjoyed since her days in the high school ski club. On her first day as a ski instructor at HoliMont in 1997, Mary Lyn was asked to help with the resort’s Phoenix Adaptive Skiing Program, which provides ski instruction, equipment, and support to disabled participants and their families. She’s been helping ever since.

Her charge that first day was 7-year-old Paul, an autistic boy. Mary Lyn spent the rest of the season skiing with Paul, helping him grow from a very dependent skier into one who was confident enough to ski every trail on the mountain.

“It was very rewarding to see someone improve so much,” Mary Lyn said. “He was a physically strong skier but the challenge was getting the instruction through to him.”

Since then, Mary Lyn, a Grand Island native, has helped dozens of disabled individuals enjoy skiing over the years. Her student this season, 5-year-old Dylan, suffers from cerebral palsy, but is able to ski with the help of a snow slider, a kind of walker with skis.

The Adaptive Ski program was featured in a segment on CBS News as one of three possible future stories for the “Assignment America” portion of the national newscast. Viewers then voted in a CBS online poll and selected the adaptive skiing segment as the most interesting story to continue reporting. As a result, CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman and his camera crew arrived at HoliMont in Ellicottville this past Saturday to tape the story for inclusion in the national newscast. The report airs at 6:30 pm on February 9, 2007.

Mary Lyn is thrilled that the adaptive skiing program is receiving national recognition. “We are always looking for instructors and volunteers,” she said. “We’ve gotten a lot of calls for new students recently and could use help from anyone who has strong skiing or snowboarding skills and a desire to help disabled individuals.”

Nutting, who is a certified ski instructor and a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, enjoys teaching both her college students and her adaptive skiing students. It has been particularly gratifying for her to see the skiing program expand over the years and become customized to meet the needs of all students.

“It’s the challenge,” she said. “Trying to maximize the fun while showing them how to ski well and enjoy it, despite their various disabilities.” 

Editor’s note: A photograph of Mary Lyn Nutting, associate and adjunct art professor at Genesee Community College’s Arcade Campus Center, skiing with one of the Phoenix Adaptive Skiing Program students at HoliMont Ski Resort, is available at the following Internet address. Photo credit: Special Effects.