International ski event to bring hundreds to Rhinelander
Visually impaired skier Krista Erickson, left, is guided by Julie Coppens at the 2023 ParaBirkie. Ski for Light is now the presenting sponsor of that event. Erickson, from Chicago, is the vice president of SFL. Coppens, from Cincinnati, Ohio, is the SFL president. Submitted photo
Snow or no snow, 2024 Ski for Light is a go
By Eileen Persike, Editor
RHINELANDER – More than 200 cross-country skiers will descend upon Rhinelander the end of the month for the 2024 Ski for Light International Week. It’s the 49th such event that brings together visually- or mobility-impaired participants, sighted guides and volunteers from across the United States and several countries to cross country ski, to better their skills, compete and have fun. Local SFL volunteer guide and board member Michael Evelo said it’s a special week for the skiers.
“For many of them this is the only time all year they get on snow,” Evelo said. “And it gives them a sense of freedom. It’s the only time where they can move at any speed without being attached to a cane or somebody’s elbow.
“Monday through Friday, we’ll be teaching and advancing the skills of the skiers and then on Saturday is the race rally. By the end of the week, they get to see how they do against each other,” Evelo added.
Ski for Light is an all-volunteer non-profit organization founded in 1975. Its mission is to “enhance the quality of life and independence of visually or mobility-impaired adults through a program of cross-country skiing.” The event takes place Jan. 28-Feb. 4 and will be headquartered at the Quality Inn in Rhinelander. Skiing, provided there is adequate snow, will take place at the Northwoods Nordic Trails adjacent to the Northwood Golf Course.
Having snow-covered ski trails is ideal, but Evelo emphasized the event will take place even if Mother Nature does not cooperate. He has been volunteering with SFL since 2015 and began advocating for a Rhinelander-based event the following year. In 2015 he was selected to speak at the awards banquet. He was curious who else from the Rhinelander area was there.
“I was quite embarrassed,” Evelo recalled. “The closest guide was over 100 miles away from Rhinelander. And I made a pledge to the group that I was going to change that. And that was a lot of my motivation to bring this event to Rhinelander.”
Evelo said he was pleased to see that there will be 40-some skiers and guides and volunteers from Wisconsin at the event in Rhinelander; 27 of them attending SFL for the first time.
An event of this undertaking requires a number of volunteers – something Evelo still seeks. More than two dozen community volunteers are needed to help with an activity night at the Hodag Dome Feb. 1. Basketball and wheelchair basketball, blind soccer, bocce ball, giant jenga and axe and lawn dart throwing are just a few of the activities to be offered.
“That’s going to be one of the highlights of the week,” Evelo said. “There are activities they can’t participate in outside of this type of setting.”
Sign up to volunteer at https://signup.com/client/invitation2/secure/1225576840115/false#/invitation or email Evelo at [email protected].
The community is encouraged to attend the race rally Saturday, Feb. 3 at the ski trails to cheer on the skiers. The opening ceremony begins at 10 a.m. For more information, visit sfl.org.