Sports company helps woman, 91, ski for first time in decades

CLARKSTON, Mich. – The slopes at Pine Knob were packed all weekend long with skiers of all ages, but nobody enjoyed it more than 91-year-old Joan Ziegler.

They say skiing is a lifelong sport that you can start young and continue doing for decades, but Ziegler thought her skiing days were over -- until Sunday.

She admitted she hadn’t been on skis in many moons.

"An average Sunday is not one where I go skiing," she said. "This is a wonderful experience. I haven’t been skiing in many years."

The desire to hit the mountain never left Ziegler, so she shared that with the people at Sunrise, where she lives. 

"That was my wish: That I could go skiing one more time," Ziegler said.

That wish that was relayed to Michigan Adaptive Sports, a nonprofit group that provides recreational activities for people with disabilities.

"Helping someone who really likes to ski to get back on the hill to ski, whether they have a disability or not, is irrelevant," said Kathleen Baker, with Michigan Adaptive Sports.

Ziegler used to go skiing at Pine Knob as a young girl, and her family was right there by her side Sunday to support her.

"I didn’t think this would happen, so this is cool," Ziegler's granddaughter, Elli Thomas, said.

Dave Henry and his son, Connor, helped Ziegler gear up -- from the sleeping bag for warmth to her goggles and helmet.

"(I) have to have a helmet on," she said. "Oh dear! Hat off, helmet on. Oh, boy. Here I go. Yippe skippy!"

Ziegler even rode the lift, a first for her.

Once at the top, Henry helped her down, carving turns left and right. For the avid skier, it was an emotional experience.

"It was great," Ziegler said. "It was terrific."

She said she enjoyed it so much that she went again -- one last run to cap off a perfect day on the mountain.

"I loved it," Ziegler said. "It was worth everything."

Michigan Adaptive Sports teaches skiing, snowboarding, water skiing and kayaking. About 75 percent of their participants are wheelchair users.

About the Authors:

Jamie anchors sports coverage on Local 4 News Saturdays at 6 & 11 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m., in addition to hosting Sports Final Edition.

Dawn Jorgenson, Graham Media Group Branded Content Managing Editor, began working with the group in April 2013. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in electronic media.