Q&A: Harald Vik, deafblind skier, on his passion for cross country, Ski for Light event
February 2, 2019
Over 270 skiers and guides celebrated the culminating race and rally for the 44th annual Ski for Light event, which brings skiers with visual or mobility impairments together with guides to cross country ski for a week, on Saturday morning.
One of those skiers was Harald Vik, a 75-year-old cross country skier from Drammen, Norway, is participating in Ski for Light for his eighth year.
Sky-Hi News met up with Vik, who is deafblind, at Snow Mountain Ranch before he competed in the finale 10 kilometer race to talk about what it's like to learn to ski without sight and Vik's passion for the sport.
Vik's translator Robert Skarsbakk, who has been working with him for 20 years, translated the conversation. Below is a transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity.
Sky-Hi News: What brought you to Ski for Light?
Harald Vik: Well, you know I love to travel and to be social and meet people. I love to meet friends and family because the alternative for me is to stay at home alone and be isolated, so I love to travel all around the world. One time, I was at the Ridderrennet in Beitostølen* and there was an American lady in the ski tracks that was cheering me on and she told me about Ski for Light and invited me, so that's how I got introduced. My first time was in 2011 and I met a lot of people and I've come ever since.
SHN: How long have you been skiing?
HV: I probably started when I was two years old. I remember skiing with my parents at probably two years. I grew up with cross country skiing. My hometown is actually more known for fruit trees and not known as a cross country place.
SHN: How long have you been visually impaired?
HV: I'm born deaf, so as a baby I was deaf. When I grew up, I started noticing that my vision wasn't ok, especially in the dark, I couldn't see normally. When I was around 18 years old then I started to really lose my vision and it was completely gone when I was around 43.
SHN: What was it like learning to ski blind?
HV: I was introduced to the Beitostølen area, it's an area that's very suited for blind people because there's very good and deep tracks. I met a lot of people that helped introduce me to cross country as a blind skier, so it has not been difficult for me. I've participated in the Ridderrennet 34 times.
SHN: What is your favorite memory at Ski for Light?
HV: Oh, let me think. Best memory… There's so many memories, but it's the skiing part I remember best. I actually have a lot of good memories when Ski for Light was held in Utah because the tracks in Utah were very nice. That was a good memory. But Granby is number two.
SHN: What do you enjoy about skiing?
HV: Well I love to be outside and ski. I just enjoy skiing, it's been a big part of my life for so many years. It's very important to be physically active. You know a lot of deafblind people are too scared to try skiing, but for me it's important to come out and meet people and exercise. A lot of people, especially blind people, are scared when it goes downhill, but when I go downhill, I have good guides with me so there's no problem. (…) You have to have a hand to hold.
SHN: Where is your favorite place to ski?
HV: Beitostølen, where the Ridderrennet is held, because the tracks are flat and they're good tracks. And there's always a lot of snow. The first day here in Granby, I didn't feel too well because of the altitude, but the second day it got better and the third day it was much better.
SHN: What advice would you give other skiers?
HV: I would encourage them to try a biathlon because it's so much fun and I think it's so nice that for the first time Ski for Light had a biathlon here in Granby. People should try it because the shooting part is so fun, especially for blind people.
*The Ridderrennet is a 20 kilometer race that culminates the Ridderuka, the world’s largest annual winter sports week for people with visual impairments or disabilities. It’s held in Beitostølen, Norway.