Monday, March 10, 2014
By JOHN CHRISTIE
(Continued from page 1)
Andre Benoit began skiing more than 75 years ago, served in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II and is among the inductees in the Maine Ski Hall of Fame.
A deep commitment to his 10th Mountain buddies provoked him to become deeply involved in the 10th Mountain Veterans organization, resulting in his annual participation in reunion trips to the Rockies each year until 2011, his most recent skiing trip west at the age of 90.
"With the dwindling number of surviving WWII veterans, the annual gathering has diminished to a mere handful of participants," Benoit regretfully reports. Not that he doesn't continue to ski the mountains of Maine to this day, and his classic technique can be spotted at Shawnee Peak, Sunday River and Sugarloaf.
His love for his fellow veterans provoked him to be the moving force behind getting a section of Route 302 between Portland and North Conway designated as the 10th Mountain Division Trail.
His newfound love in the 1980s was the Maine Handicapped Skiing program whose launch coincided with his retirement. He began making weekly winter trips to Sunday River to volunteer to help individuals with disabilities learn to enjoy the sport of skiing.
In 2011, Benoit was recognized by Maine Handicapped Skiing for his 25 years of devotion and contribution to the mission of the organization.
Now known as Maine Adaptive Sports and Recreation, the program has expanded far beyond its original mission of introducing people with disabilities to skiing to now offer year-round programs that teach a variety of adaptive sports activities to individuals age 4 and up.
The program helps individuals build confidence in their abilities, develop physical strength, create new friendships and, perhaps most important, just have fun outside.
Especially satisfying to Benoit was the creation of a special program in 2007 called Veterans/No Boundaries for all veterans and active duty personnel, enabling them to participate, free of charge, in a variety of activities. Funded by a generous donation from Bath Iron Works, and supported by local businesses, veterans groups and individuals, this program gives disabled military personnel the opportunity to participate in a variety of physical activities.
Andre Benoit has reason to be proud of all he has done for skiing in Maine. And we all have reason to be very proud that he's one of us.
John Christie is a former ski racer and ski area manager and owner, a ski historian and member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. He and his son, Josh, write ski columns on alternating weeks. John can be reached at: