Ski For Light History
The idea of teaching blind people to cross-country ski began in Norway in the 1950’s with a blind Norwegian musician named Erling Stordahl. His work led in 1964 to the creation of Ridderrennet, which today annually attracts more than 1,000 disabled participants and guides from around the world to the mountains of Norway for a week-long event.
- Ridderrennet concept was brought to the United States with the efforts of Olav Pedersen, supported by the Sons of Norway foundation. At the time, Olav was a ski instructor in Colorado who had immigrated from Norway a decade earlier. He had known Erling in Norway, and was aware of Erling’s dreams and plans.
- The first "Race for Light" was held in Frisco Colorado, U.S.A.
There were three blind and visually impaired cross-country ski programs in operation in Western Canada.
- A ski club in Vancouver BC, was affiliated with The Sons of Norway (SON) and operated by Synnøve and Annar Jacobsen.
- The Norseman Ski Club in Calgary, Alberta and affiliated themselves with SON, created by Lillian and Ted Ofstad.
- A blind and visually impaired cross-country ski program in Edmonton, Alberta, sponsored byThe Nordic Society of Edmonton with Kaare Askildt in charge of the program.
- Arrangements were made by Annar Jacobsen with SON Nordic Lodge in Castlegar, BC to host the very first blind and visually impaired cross-country skiing event in Canada.
- It was attended by Erling Stordahl, the founder of the Norwegian Beitostølen Health Sports Centre (who organize the annual Norwegian Ridderrennet), and his guide Inge Morisbak, (the program manager at Beitostølen. Inge has a PhD in physical education and adapted sports).
- Participants from both BC and Alberta skied in the Castlegar event. Kaare Askildt, from the Edmonton ski club borrowed a 12 passenger van, loaded the Edmonton skiers, guides and equipment, picked up the Calgary skiers, guides and their equipment.
- Four Blind and Visually impaired skiers travelled to Norway in March to participate in the annual Ridderennet at Beitostølen escorted by Kaare Askildt The trip was funded by a sport celebrity dinner by the Nordic Society of Edmonton. The proceeds were matched by the Edmonton Kinsmen Club.
- That was the first time any Canadians had ever skied in Ridderennet. It was a great trip, and a valuable learning experience for all.
- Kaare Askildt put a written proposal together as suggested by Gary Johnson (Sons of Norway) to adopt a Canadian Ski for Light as a Sons of Norway outreach Program.
- The SON Foundation approved the SFL proposal as a SON Outreach Program, and a meeting was convened at Gary Johnson’s home in Edmonton on February 4th 1981.
- The meeting was attended by Tormod Rekdal -- President SON Foundation, Henry Sotvedt -- Sec/Treas SON Foundation, Annar Jacobsen -- Vancouver, Lillian Ofstad -- Calgary, Per Nielsen -- President SON Solglytt Lodge, Edmonton, Gary Johnson and Kaare Askildt. Einar Berg attended as a liaison to SFL US. All were in favour of creating SFL Canada Inc., Bylaws were drawn up, all except Einar Berg became Directors, and officers were elected by silent ballots. Kaare Askildt was duly elected President, Annar Jacobsen was elected to the VP position, and Gary Johnson became the Secretary/Treasurer.