Ski for Light racers get ‘mojo’

Helen Peterson reaches the bottom of the hill at Terry Peak during a snow slider run. Peterson’s guide is Nick Nolen, who helps Peterson and is ready to assist if something should go wrong. Peterson has participated in the Black Hills Regional Ski for Light event for 16 years. Pioneer photo by Jason Gross

LEAD —  “We got a good run,” Helen Peterson exclaimed as she finished a snow slider run Wednesday at the Black Hills Regional Ski for Light event at Terry Peak. “We got the mojo.”

Two skis support the slider basket and two outriggers are on the outside. The rider uses his or her body to balance and lean. A rider’s arms point to the desired location, and the body follows suit.

“I was chicken-hearted until I joined Ski for Light,” Peterson said. “Now, I’m a daredevil.” The 58-year-old Spearfish resident has enjoyed the event’s speed and camaraderie for 16 years.

Wednesday gave Peterson and others numerous chances to go down the hill. She received on-course support from guide Nick Nolen.

Peterson served on boards like the Black Hills Chapter for Citizens with Disabilities. Fellow board member Don McLinsh told Peterson she needed to participate in Ski for Light as a way to pursue an activity.

What does Peterson remember most about her first Ski for Light? “Wow,” she said. “I want to come back.”

Skiing basics came to Peterson right away. She described downhill runs as “like nothing I’ve ever experienced.”

Peterson described herself as shy and introverted before joining Ski for Light. She said participation in the program has immensely helped her self-confidence.

A 40-mile-per-hour speed marks a good run for Peterson. She said she was unable to reach that on Wednesday, as the snow on the hill was somewhat soft. Peterson seeks consistent runs for the week.

Peterson previously served as a Red Cross caseworker for the military. “I love helping people,” she said. 

“As long as I can move, I’m here,” Peterson said of future Ski for Light participation. “It’s the most wonderful program.”

Sioux Falls resident Nick Pavel agrees with Peterson’s sentiment. The 22-year-old Communication Services for the Deaf employee said he loves everything about the program.

Pavel first heard about Ski for Light two and a half years ago. His memories from last year centered on the people and activities.

Tuesday night’s karaoke turned Pavel into Wednesday’s center of attention. “Nick at Night” turned into a greeting for Pavel, a devotee of 1950s and 1960s music.

Downhill and cross-country skiing filled Pavel’s plate for the week. He started in the sport two years ago and said he needed a bit of a refresher course on downhill.

“I came here for one week and had a good time,” Pavel said of last year’s Ski for Light. “To be yourself is awesome ... it’s one of the best weeks of the year.”

Pavel said he definitely gained self-confidence. He is trying to enter radio broadcasting and said his philosophy is to never give up.

Peterson greeted a fellow Ski for Light member. She said after the exchange, “The love up here is just wonderful.”

Skiing continues at Terry Peak and Wharf Resources on Thursday. Deadwood Mountain Grand will host  a banquet and awards dinner starting at 7 p.m. Thursday.


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