Over the weekend, my son participated in Riding on Insulin, a snowboard and ski camp exclusively for kids living with Type 1 Diabetes led by pro-rider Sean Busby . The one day camp was held at Camelback resort in Pennsylvania, and is one of more than ten camps held internationally each winter. Accommodations were provided by Great Wolf Lodge Poconos, a big draw for the younger participants.
The camp began with a Friday afternoon orientation at Great Wolf for families–what to expect, how cold weather and exercise in cold weather affect blood glucose levels (BGs), reassurances that kids’ medical needs would be taken care of, and general get-to-know-us chat.
The next morning (at 8:15 am!), the 45 participants were divided into age/ability groups and assigned to one of five to six elite coaches–these are experienced coaches who are all familiar with T1D, many living with the diseases themselves. Junior coaches dispersed among groups to help with instruction. Junior coaches are individuals who have participated in past camps and are good enough skiers and riders to help with instruction.
The first part of the morning was spent learning techniques. The kids did group BG checks every half hour and elite coaches carried back packs filled with glucose tablets and other non-freezable glucose sources to treat hypoglycemia. Participants then took a lunch break, eating a camp-provided boxed lunch consisting of a turkey wrap (gluten free and vegetarian options were also available), potato chips, and an apple. Then it was back to the slopes! The second part of the day was spent skiing and snowboarding down the slopes.
Cole was a first time snowboarder, so he stuck closely to instructors in the training area (which still had a fairly long hill from what I could see in photos). He made it down the slope six times, the last time without falling! I’ve seen the GoPro footage and I can tell you that he took some pretty hard falls, poor kiddo. The kids all did BG checks every time they went on the magic carpet (a moving walkway–the steeper slopes have ski lifts). Cole’s BG stayed pretty high all day, unfortunately. We had a big snow the weekend before camp, and when Cole played outside, we pretty much skipped bolusing (that’s the insulin you take to cover any carbs you eat) and his BG stayed between 80 and 120 mg/dL–great numbers! But I guess learning to snowboard is not as active as sledding because at one point in the morning during camp, his BG was 347! We had done a 1:50 ratio for breakfast. For comparison, Cole’s usual breakfast ratio is 1:10. And if you are new to diabetes, that means you get one unit of insulin for every ten carbs you are eating. We had also set a temp basal of 60%, which means Cole was getting 60% less basal insulin–that is the insulin that drips continuously throughout the day to process the sugar secreted by your liver. Next time, we know to stick with our usual carb ratio and try the reduced basal rate only.
After skiing and boarding ended close to 4:00pm, participants and families gathered at Great Wolf Lodge for a buffet dinner and motivational talks from some of the elite coaches. Cole was excited to learn that one of the elite coaches hailed from Virginia. Unfortunately, Sean Busby was not present for the camp. We received an email that he would be there, but we didn’t see him and at the banquet, they said he wasn’t able to be with us. There was a national snowboarding competition on the mountain that day as well, so I suspect that kept him busy.
Cole gives the camp two thumbs up and is already looking forward to next year’s camp. He loved learning to snowboard (despite his bruised tailbone) and had a blast. I think it was great he was able to meet and hang out with other kids who have T1D–it allowed him to shed his self-consciousness about his disease for a day. Great job, Mollie and the ROI team!
As soon as I convert Cole’s GoPro footage to a format WordPress can handle, I’ll upload a video!
(disclaimer: I am reporting on/reviewing the camp based on my son’s and husband’s reporting–I, unfortunately, was stuck in the hotel room all weekend with food poisoning–Thanks Au Bon Pan.)