How Ski For Light Got Its Name

by Raymond Bud Keith

The name “Ski for Light” came from Erling Stordahl, founder of the Norwegian Ridderrenn. Erling was full of metaphors. Instead of focusing on blindness and the absence of light, he focused on the unknown and enlightenment. In looking at the Norwegian culture, he used a metaphor from Peer Gynt. In the legend, a Norwegian knight, the ridder part of Ridderrenn, needed to escape some bad guys. He came to an abyss and not having any idea of whether he could safely make it, leaped with faith and succeeded.

Erling equated this with the human struggle and pushed the need for us to try things where success was doubtful and discover some previously unknown strength or ability within ourselves that help us succeed. It is the metaphorical struggle from ignorance to enlightenment. So in cross-country skiing, blind folks are enabled to ski from the ignorance of not knowing anything about the limits of our abilities to the enlightenment of learning that we can succeed at much more than we had ever imagined.

The first event using an English name, in 1975, was called “Race for Light”. Oral Miller and I were the first two blind folks who insinuated ourselves into leadership for the second event. We both insisted that racing and hard training for a race might fit in the Norwegian culture, but it wouldn’t fit in our culture for many reasons. We insisted on something more appropriate, so we switched to Ski for Light, keeping the idea of enlightening oneself regarding possibilities and deemphasizing the racing aspects.

Raymond Keith, the authour of this article and who was blind, helped build Ski for Light. Raymond "Bud" Keith was awarded Norway's Order of St. Olav in 1991, fulfilling a wish made by King Olav V before his death. One of that country's highest awards, it recognized his work with a ski program for the blind.