“Imagine living most of your life in a wheelchair and then finding yourself on a chairlift,” says Emma Mabel Carlson, director of wilderness trips at Chewonki. “And then: gliding down a snowy trail on skis!” She’s witnessed this and many similar memorable moments through her volunteer work at Sugarloaf Mountain for Maine Adaptive Sports and Recreation, an organization that helps people with a range of physical disabilities learn to ski, snowboard, and snowshoe. Sugarloaf is a mountain where Emma’s been giving and taking joy all her life. A native of Farmington, she spent winter afternoons as a child messing around on skis there. She went on to study at nearby Colby College and was a member of the ski team, which practiced at Sugarloaf. Heck, her grandparents explored Sugarloaf in the 1940s on skis wrapped in seal skins and her grandmother, 92, is still a professional ski instructor there. Emma’s been giving and taking joy on Sugarloaf all her life. A native of Farmington, she spent winter afternoons as a child messing around on skis there. She went on to study at nearby Colby College and was a member of the outing club, for which she taught ski clinics at Sugarloaf. Heck, her grandparents explored it in the 1940s on skis wrapped in seal skins and her grandmother, 92, is still a professional ski instructor there. So you might say that Emma was uniquely prepared to share her love of skiing right on this mountain she knows so well. When her mother, Sarah Carlson, began volunteering for Maine Adaptive in 2008, Emma immediately wanted in. She got her training and started working with participants. One of her favorites was a little boy named Noah Carver who was blind. Noah, who lives on Beals Island, is 12 now and Emma and Sarah are still skiing with him, using Bluetooth devices that allow him to ski freely but stay in communication through their helmets. You can watch Noah skiing and doing a lot of other awe-inspiring activities here. Emma’s work with Maine Adaptive focuses mostly on blind-guiding but she also works with sit-skiers unable to stand due to a disability such as a neurological disorder or loss or paralysis of limbs. Settled onto a sit-ski, often using two small skis attached to either arm, these adventurers are tethered to Emma’s hands while she skis behind them. In the beginning, “I was nervous,” she admits. “You are completely tethered to another human being…if they mess up or I mess up, we’re in it together.” Slowly she and the other skiers build confidence. With all her Maine Adaptive partners, “Trust is the ultimate,” says Emma. “I trust them, they trust me. You’re a team, in the most pure sense. If you do it right, it’s like a dance, you get into that flow. Skiing in that rhythm is fantastic when you’re doing it alone; in tandem, it’s even more powerful.” Emma says adaptive skiers and volunteers are “usually having the most fun on the mountain.” She describes the adventures she’s had as both lighthearted and meaningful. “I love experiencing the mountain I grew up on in a new way,” she says. “From childhood, I know every inch of Sugarloaf. But now I’m tethered to someone, and the terrain is more challenging–I approach it in a new way.” The heart of Emma’s volunteer work is this: “I am watching the impossible happen,” she explains, “expanding my own understanding of what humans can achieve.” As she does every February, Emma recently worked at one of her favorite special events at Sugarloaf, the New England Blind and Visually Impaired (NEVI) Ski Festival. Learn more about the festival and Maine Adaptive here.