By Steve Hubrecht
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Adaptive cross country ski sledge to be available for public use in Invermere this winter

The world’s one and only publicly available Tessier Eskaip adaptive cross country ski sledge is set for its first winter of rentals, right here in the Columbia Valley.

The $6,000 piece of high-end recreation equipment has been brought to the valley by the local nonprofit Recreation Adapted (RAD) Society.

Getting the Eskaip here is just one of RAD Society founder Tanelle Bolt’s many initiatives to help improved the gap in recreation services for people with mobility challenges, who live in or are visiting the valley. “I was amazed by how light it (the Eskaip) is, and how easy it was to assemble,” Bolt told the Pioneer. “It felt like it was no heavier than a toboggan.”

The Eskaip will be housed this winter in the Revolutions Mountain Gear store in downtown Invermere, with Revolutions owner Cam Mclellan offering his store as “a hub point” from which people can rent the sledge.

“You can take it out whenever you want to go cross country skiing. I haven’t actually had a chance to go out and give it a spin myself yet,” said Bolt, who was away from the valley when she spoke to the Pioneer. “But I am excited, very excited, to get back and give it a try. I’ve never been on an adaptive cross country ski that has truly felt safe and supportive to me, but that’s exactly what this should do. This one has a higher back than most adaptive cross country skis, and it has brakes, which most adaptive cross country skis do not have. It really does allow for much more participation for somebody who is mobility challenged.”

The Eskaip is double mounted, with both skis fixed to the rig. Tessier launched the Eskaip on the market just last year, and Bolt explained the company has sold several of them already, but only to private individuals. “So this is the only one, anywhere on the planet that you can just rock up and take out for a ski. After you sign the waiver and pay for the rental, of course,” said Bolt. “I do already have a wait list of frequent Columbia Valley visitors who are just waiting for the chance to come and try out the Eskaip.”

The Eskaip arrived in the valley through the some key grant funding, as well as fundraising efforts by RAD. Bolt extended a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to those who supported RAD for this iniative, and the society’s other efforts, as well as to Mclellan for housing the Eskaip.

Bolt, who uses a wheelchair, began the RAD Society several years ago after discovering firsthand the gap in recreation services for differently abled people. “Sure, there’s a lot of adaptive recreation equipment out there you can buy, but it’s very expensive, and it can be very hard to get ahold of a piece of adaptive equipment to try out before purchasing. So that’s the gap: you’re stuck paying really large amounts of money for equipment that may or may not work well for you. You don’t know if it works for you until after you’ve made the purchase. If you don’t have thousands of dollars just sitting around  — and most people don’t — it becomes a problem,” she said. “That’s what we’re trying to do with the RAD. Give people the chance to ‘try before they buy’, so to speak. And give people who don’t want to buy, or can’t afford to buy, the chance to still be able to go out and recreate when they in the Columbia Valley.

‘We are different from other organizations is that few other adaptive societies or organizations focus on recreation as a whole. There are various adaptive societies dedicated to skiing, or snow sports, another one to biking, another one to surfing, and still others to golf, and so on. They are always specific to one single sport,” added Bolt. “We are the only one I know of that focuses on a broad spectrum of recreation, winter or summer. And one of the only ones that allows you just to show up in town, see a poster, or a story in the newspaper, call a phone number and then be able to head out on a piece of adaptive recreation equipment later that same day. That just doesn’t happen anywhere else.”

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