Mark G. Davis ’79 Skiing in the Dark
His skis cut in across the icy slopes. Crisp mountain air whips at his face. Mark G. Davis looks much like any other snow skier, with one notable exception: He is blind.
"My ski guide talks in word pictures, guiding me down the slopes," says Davis. "Whenever I ski, I always feel exhilarated because I’m doing something I love, something I thought I had lost forever."
Determined to share a sense of empowerment with others like him, Davis ’79 founded Foresight Ski Guides, a nonprofit organization that he now directs. Foresight provides visually impaired and blind people an opportunity to push themselves physically to regain or develop their confidence in other areas of their lives.
A former banker whose financial expertise was widely courted throughout the Denver business community, and an athlete whose skills were swift and sure, Davis awoke one morning at the age of 39 unable to see.
"You’re at the top of your career—single, active, making a lot of money—and overnight you become dependent on other people for 100 percent of your existence," says Davis. "I would be lying if I said I didn’t have dark thoughts during those first few days and weeks."
In less than a month and a half, however, Davis’ sense of confidence, the can-do, go-get-’em attitude that had propelled him to the top, was back.
The blindness from a rare form of multiple sclerosis still engulfed him. But Davis’ life changed when he discovered a program in Vail, Colorado, that offered ski guides for the visually impaired and the blind. The program allowed him to return to ski the steep Rocky Mountain slopes he had mastered more than 30 years earlier.
"As dramatically negative as it was to lose my vision, it was as dramatically positive to be back doing something at which I excelled. I got all of this joy and self-confidence again," says Davis.
During the next season, when he discovered the ski guide program had closed, he turned go-getter once again and founded Foresight Ski Guides. While many programs charge up to $100 a day just for a guide, Foresight provides a guide, lift ticket, rental equipment, and transportation for five days for a $50 donation.
"It is probably the best package I’ve ever encountered," says Paul P. Schafer, an information technology project manager for the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., who has skied twice as a Foresight customer.
Foresight also provides guides for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding. summertime programs include tandem bicycling and hiking. To learn more, visit www.foresightskiguides.org.
—by Dee Anne Finken
Back to Summer 2003 Chronicle