ELLICOTTVILLE — Holiday Valley, a resort beloved by locals and travelers, focuses on fun, leisure, family and inclusivity. The resort is well known for its progressive and highly effective alpine ski lessons, but is also home to another ski program — the Lounsbury Adaptive Ski Program.
The Lounsbury Adaptive Ski Program (LASP) was founded by a group of Holiday Valley Ski Patrollers to honor their friend, Bill Lounsbury. Lounsbury lost his leg to cancer, but that did not stop him from skiing as he taught himself to ski with one leg.
From there, the LASP was born, where instructors are specially trained in adaptive equipment and methods. In the first year, the program only had a couple of instructors with a total of 32 lessons.
Today, the program has expanded to about 40 instructors who teach approximately 250 lessons each season.
The LASP is beloved by both travelers afar and locals. One of those locals is Charlie Hensel, a student at Ellicottville Central School and a student of LASP for nearly 12 years, who is larger than life itself.
Charlie started out in a child mountain man sit-ski — essentially a bucket seat with a ski on it. Now, he uses a ski slider, which is basically a walker on skis. With the use of special rigs, handles and bars, Charlie is able to ski down the mountain with ease and speed.
However, Charlie is a package deal, as his mother, Lori Hensel, decided to become a LASP instructor.
“We first enrolled Charlie in the LASP when he was five,” she said. “We wanted for him to stay active in life. After seeing how much he loved it, I decided to become an instructor in the program.”
Lori has now been teaching for almost 10 years. She received her Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) Level One Alpine and Level One Visually Impaired and Developmentally Disabled certification.
“This program gives Charlie the chance to be included in such a common activity in Ellicottville,” she explained. “It makes my heart swell with pride that my son can enjoy the same pastimes I did when I was his age. My family and I are eternally grateful for the LASP.”
Another instructor, Ann Chamberlain, also discussed why she instructs for LASP.
“I love to ski,” she said. “Volunteering for Lounsbury is a way for me to help share my love of skiing by helping people learn to ski who may not have the opportunity without this program.”
The LASP is more than just a program, Chamberlain said, adding that “LASP constantly puts my own life into perspective and always warms my heart working with amazing people as we watch our students show us what they can achieve.”