Pro File features PSIA-AASI members and their stories. Learn about Tera Adams, the Director for Mount Snow Adaptive Sports based in West Dover, Vermont.
How did you get involved in snowsports?
I moved to Mammoth because of a boyfriend, who broke up with me the day I signed an employee and housing contract. I decided to stick it out and stay for the season and now, more than 15 years later, my snowsports community is closer than family in many aspects. I haven’t ever doubted the decision to stay.
What made you want to become an instructor – and in particular, an adaptive instructor?
I started my snowsports career in the “sick and sad room,” the place kids went if they didn’t feel good or while they waited for their parents to come get them. Midway through the season, the ski school supervisors offered to pay us to learn to ski and teach if we agreed to work the kids carpet area – it sounded way better than the sick and sad room!
Becoming an adaptive instructor was a choice I made from discovery. One day, Dave Owings from the Mammoth adaptive program took me out in a bi-ski, and I was hooked. I am passionate about creating access and places of equality for people; working as an adaptive instructor lets me merge my passion and skills in the outdoor industry with my desire to see the world become a more respectful and accessible place.
Does teaching adaptive sports differ from directing the Mount Snow Adaptive Sports program?
Serving as the program director for Adaptive Sports at Mount Snow is an extension of my teaching experience. It’s awesome to train staff and watch the ripple effect as they create experiences for their students.
I really enjoy our peer volunteer program which works with youth ages 14-16 who volunteer as a peer ski buddies to help form “groups” for our younger adaptive students. Instructors teach the group, and the peer volunteers provide a social component that is often lacking in the 1:1 ratio of most adaptive lessons. I love that the peers learn so much about equality despite differences, and then take that knowledge to their schools and neighborhoods!
What else do you contribute in your director’s role?
I’ve worked at different programs in a couple of states and have participated in several national adaptive events that exposed me to equipment/techniques/and instructors from all over. I strive to use that knowledge to elevate my instructors’ skills and our product offerings. I am a big proponent of certification for our instructors, and work hard to raise funds so all Mount Snow adaptive instructors, who are volunteers, can have their certifications paid for.
Are there any emerging adaptive recreation trends of particular interest to you?
The concepts of inclusively programmed products or events. People with adaptive needs don’t necessarily always need “specialized” equipment or techniques. Most often they need someone with an open mind and a “can do” attitude that is fluid in their approach and feels confident including an adaptive student in a standard lesson or class experience. I believe adaptive certifications are just as valuable in a standard snowsports school as they are in an adaptive setting. I encourage all instructors to try and attend adaptive clinics so they can bring adaptive knowledge to any event/clinic they attend.
You attended Rider Rally for the first time as part of the Nancy Oakes Hall Scholarship. What were your top takeaways?
- I’m not an island. There are women in all corners of this sport working towards equality and professionalism.
- Professionalism: don’t seek exceptions, seek to be the exception. The only way we progress is by working for it.
- More work needs to be done in creating spaces for women to excel. Not only at the national level, but in the culture of our snowsports schools and our regional events. It’s easy for people to get intimidated by the “bro” mentality. I think the creation of intentional and inclusive welcoming spaces by both genders, not just women-specific events, is necessary for gender equality in the snowsports industry.
- The snowsports industry, specifically snowboarding, is an amazing family of people spread throughout the world – I am proud to be a part of it!
This article appears in the Fall 2019 issue of 32 Degrees. Keep an eye on your mailbox, because magazines are now shipping!