ALTA, Utah – Gillian Lindt travels to Utah one time per year to experience some of the greatest snow on Earth.
The 85-year-old is a lifelong skier, but she thought she lost her ability to participate in the sport when macular degeneration took her eyesight 14 years ago.
“It just never occurred to me that you can ski when you’re blind,” Lindt said.
Six years ago, Lindt met Steve Paige, a volunteer ski instructor for the visually impaired.
Since their chance meeting, the pair developed a bond.
“I instinctively know exactly what she does, and she trusts me,” Paige said.
Paige guides Lindt down the slopes by communicating directions through Bluetooth devices.
“I’ll talk to her on the radio once I position her on the center of the hill, and say 'make a left, make a right.'” Paige said.
Those instructions are a substitute for Lindt’s eyesight. With that guidance, Lindt’s skiing expertise does the rest of the work.
“A kid, maybe 8 or 10 years old, he came up to me and he said, ‘Why do you wear a vest saying blind skier?’ And I said, “because I’m blind.’ And he said, ‘Oh no, you’re not blind I saw you come down the hill,’” Lindt said of an encounter she had following one of her ski runs.
Paige believes Lindt is the world’s oldest, blind skier.
“She always says, ‘no, no, no, there’s older.’ I said, ‘no, but they’re not blind.’ She always forgets she’s visually impaired,” Paige said.
Skiing allows Lindt to forget about visual impairment.
“On these groomed slopes, with the powder, it’s the only time I can go and I’m free,” Lindt said. “I won’t fall.”
Paige provides this service free of charge.
“It’s rewarding,” Paige said. “I get to be a part of something.”
Lindt is thankful for that generosity.
“He just does it because he wants blind people or visually impaired people to learn to ski and have a sense of empowerment,” Lindt said.
As long as she is physically able, Lindt plans to keep coming back to Utah’s slopes.
“They know me well enough and say, ‘We know you are really nearing the end of your life when you don’t want to travel anymore, when you don’t want to ski,’” Lindt said of her family members.
If anyone tells her skiing is too dangerous, she quickly counters back.
“They kind of know, that I’ll do what I want,” Lindt said.