1. First and foremost, I want to thank again your organization for inviting me to your country and the SFL event. I have been involved with SFL in the USA since 1986, but I must tell you I took away from your event more than I can give in return. I learned a great deal and brought home some new ideas that perhaps we can use in our own event.
I know our purpose was to come and offer advice on how to improve your event, but in my case the "teacher was taught"!
2. I liked the idea of allowing children and spouses to attend the event. Sking is a family sport and that was nice. The children added a new dimension and it was fun to have them there. Our program is growing old and we need young blood. Allowing family at the event is a nice concept.
3. I liked the gatherings at night in the confernece rooms for games and conversation. Again, there was a family feature that is missing at our event.
4. It seemed to me that everyone skied as much as they could. That is good. The real purpose of Ski for Light is to teach people to ski and for those people to ski. Sitting in meetings or some place other than the trails is something that is a bit too much at our event. Don't get bogged down in long meetings or require guides and participants to spend much time in meetings.
5. On the negative side of course is the accessibility issue for wheelchair users. Hopefully my presence as a wheechair user will stimulate your team to find a more accessible hotel. I also think that our SFL program was enhanced when mobility impaired skiers started coming to the event. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own disability we loose perspective about other disabilities.
6. Mobility or Visually Impaired skiers should have a "next step" to take on the skiing ladder if they want to. Here in the USA we are linked to the United States Disabled Ski team. If we note participants who have a competitive urge and ski fast or could ski fast, we link them with ski team officals. I did mention this to officials of the Japanese Sports Center for the Disabled and they would like to be linked to your SFL program. You should take steps to meet with them.
In closing I made many new friends in Japan and I want you to know, that anything I can do to help your program get better is something that I WILL do.
I found my attendance at Ski for Light Japan, January 3-6, 1999, to be a very interesting and enjoyable experience. The arrangements for transportation, accommodations, and meals were outstanding. We enjoyed many cultural experiences and Japanese foods that we had not tried before. We found a welcoming community atmosphere with many opportunities for participants to share information about themselves and develop strong feelings of being part of the group. We enjoyed the wide age range of participants and especially the presence of children. We found that the group size made many activities possible such as the skiers and guides introducing each other to the group.
Arrangements for visually-impaired skiers were very good. Program materials were provided in accessible formats; room numbers at the hotel were in braille making it possible for blind persons to move and function independently. Announcements were made at every meal so that everyone was kept up-to-date on program arrangements and an English translation was provided for those who did not know Japanese. Meetings were held for blind skiers and guides so that everyone had an opportunity to share their experiences and get any questions answered.
Guide training was provided on the first day and all guides were given instruction in communication with blind persons and in how to guide blind skiers on the ski trails. Ski for Light Japan used the guiding system developed by Ski for Light in the United States and it seemed to work well.
I found trail conditions to be similar to what we might find in the United States at a regional Ski for Light program. Trails were suitable for beginning skiers. The lack of distance and directional markings proved to be problematic at times and guides found it necessary to consult other skiers to determine the best way to go.
A 4-kilometer rally was held on the final day with skiers starting at intervals. Awards for the top finishers were presented in a friendly awards ceremony.
Ski for Light Japan organized activities in the evening that were enjoyable and suitable for participation by all those in attendance. We had many opportunities to interact with Japanese participants and enjoyed communicating with everyone in attendance. We found that many people could communicate with some English and the language barrier was not a major problem.
It is recommended that Ski for Light Japan explore improvements in trail markings so that guides unfamiliar with the trail system can navigate competently.
We are studying the arrangements of Ski for Light Japan very carefully so that we may incorporate ideas from your program into the program of Ski for Light in the United States. The participants from the United States are very grateful to Ski for light Japan for giving us this opportunity to participate in your program and sharing such wonderful experiences about your country. We thank everyone involved for this truly outstanding opportunity.