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Endless stories of joy, as River City Waterski Team passes on fun for those with special challenges



Twice a summer, the River City Waterski Team takes a day to bring what they do on the water to those who would likely never get a chance.

At 9 a.m. Friday on Lake Neshonoc in West Salem, and again in August, the team puts on an adaptive ski clinic for about 55-60 people of all ages, using specialized equipment to get up on skis.

“The joy that these individuals demonstrate when they get out on the water and get to ski is just something you have to see to appreciate,” Jody Lyon with the ski team told WIZM, before rattling off multiple success stories that probably bring her as much joy.

FILE – River City Waterski Team members help an adaptive skier on the sit-down ski (PHOTO: River City Waterski Team)

One story was of an amputee from a military incident. 

“We started him in a sit ski, then we were able to actually work him up to stand-up skiing,” Lyon said. “So, that was just fantastic. His enthusiasm and joy at being able to do that was, again, something you’d have to see to appreciate.”

Another was of an autistic boy, who loves riding with dad in the convertible, and gets an even bigger rush when he’s out on skis behind the boat. 

“Just having that feeling of that wind,” Lyon said. “Just pure joy on his face.”

Not everyone is thrilled about overcoming their challenges to get up on skis. But Lyon says they find a way. 

Her best story may be of the little girl who needed Barbie to come along for the ride.

“She was afraid, but she kept hanging on to her little Barbie doll,” Lyon said. “So, we figured out a way to strap her doll right onto the sit-ski, and then she was fine. And she was excited to go skiing. As long as she had her Barbie with.”

Of course, there, too, are the falls. Some self imposed, others by accident. Almost always laughs afterward.

Lyon said they had one skier try to jump out of his sit ski and tackle one of the balancing skiers from the team. Another, a little girl has crashed a couple times to mom’s horror, but she pops up laughing each time.

“Everyone just still has a great time,” Lyon said. “I would say there are not a lot of falls. But when it does happen, usually everyone is in the water laughing and just having a great time.”

FILE – Using the sit-down ski during a River City Waterski Team clinic (PHOTO: River City Waterski Team)

They’ve been doing these clinics for nearly a decade. 

Someone brought the idea from another ski team and asked if River City would do it. They wasted no time in figuring out how.

“We jumped on it right away,” Lyon said. “One of our skiers used to ski in the Dells at Tommy Bartlett, so she reached out to some contacts she had there — people that had experience. So they came here and taught us how to do it.”

The group sizes were small at first, because they were first borrowing equipment and then had minimal funds to buy skis of their own. 

Then, it got help from the North American Squirrel Association (n.a.s.a.) out of Holmen, to purchase special equipment like a sit-down ski and a triple edge bar, and they’ve been handling larger and larger groups ever since.

A skier gets up on two during the adaptive ski clinic put on by the River City Waterski Team (PHOTO: River City Waterski Team)

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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  1. Lucenut

    June 22, 2024 at 8:47 am

    Imagine that, something good being done by a private group. It’s nice to read after all the debacles by our government. Let the private sector work it’s magic.

    • LG

      June 29, 2024 at 12:26 pm

      You think like a Libertarian.

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