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April 08, 2010 3:25 am

Skiing without limits

Written by Tribune Staff

Eagle Mount gives opportunity to disabled skiers of all ages

For the past 20 years, Terry Cronin of Powell has devoted his winter and early-spring days to helping people with disabilities ski.

As director of the Eagle Mount ski program at Red Lodge, Mont., Cronin can tell countless stories of individuals doing something they never imagined was possible — ski down a mountain.

“They can go out and ski, just as well as anyone else,” he said.

Cronin tells of the man with cerebral palsy who enjoyed a ski trip with his brothers. The dad from Minnesota who brings his disabled son to Red Lodge Mountain Ski Resort every year to ski. The man who lost his leg in a motorcycle and started skiing. The special-education students whose faces light up as they join their peers on a ski trip.

From residents with traumatic brain injuries to those with no legs, Cronin has helped people learn to ski, regardless of their disabilities.

“There are really no limitations. If you have the desire, we can get out and ski,” he said.

Eagle Mount volunteers help skiers use sit-skis for those unable to stand or use a tether, assisting skiers who are able to be upright. Eagle Mount provides the skiing equipment. Sometimes volunteers just shadow a skier to ensure their safety and provide encouragement.

“In providing recreational opportunities for disabled individuals, Eagle Mount doesn't overlook their limitations — it defies them,” wrote Jeff Straw in a recent Eagle Mount fundraising letter.

Cronin works as a landscaper in the Powell area, so his seasonal job allows him to be assisting with Eagle Mount on Red Lodge most days of the week.

“Terry Cronin is the backbone of the ski program and does an absolutely incredible job with it,” said Chris Wolff, who takes students from Powell to Eagle Mount's ski program Red Lodge.

Asked why he's stayed with the program for 20 years, Cronin said it's rewarding. Over the years, he's seen individuals reach milestones, such as skiing independently.

“It's neat to be able to offer that opportunity,” he said.

Volunteers in the region donate their time, and Eagle Mount relies on financial contributions.

“We can't do it without people's support,” Cronin said. “We're all volunteers. We rely on people's generosity.”
Cronin said the group welcomes new volunteers every season.

“We always have a need for volunteers, especially those who can help on weekdays,” he said.

This weekend, Eagle Mount will host its annual fundraiser, Eagle Fest, in Billings. The festivities include a dinner Friday night and an auction Saturday at the Crown Plaza in Billings. All proceeds benefit adaptive recreational programs.

The organization began with an adaptive ski program and has grown to include golf, equestrian, swim and bicycle programs. For information, visit www.eaglemount.us or call 406-245-5422.