Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Going Downhill Fast

How about some good vibrations for a change? We took a trip to Colorado recently and after two years of thinking I’d never ski again, I found myself going downhill fast, and it was spectacular.

Of all my past sports and hobbies, I miss skiing the most (see To Ski or Not To Ski). I knew there were adaptive ski options out there, but I was hesitant to try them. I wasn’t sure I could enjoy it the same as I have when healthy. But then I saw a short film at Sundance last year called ‘Beyond Iraq’, about disabled veterans taking skiing lessons, and rediscovering the abilities they still had. Soon after, my mother-in-law sent me information about the Breckinridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC), a non-profit who helps people of any ability enjoy activities like skiing, snowshoeing, canoeing, rafting, hiking, and rock climbing. I was still doubtful I’d ever go to the mountains again, much less go racing down the slopes.

But the seed of hope was planted, and so this winter I finally decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and get back up there. I made a reservation for an all-day lesson without having a clue how it would actually happen. How would they get me up the hill? How much control would I have? Would they just push me over the edge? Could I still fall and break my goggles like I’ve been known to do before?

Following a fairly smooth trip to Denver and into the mountains (an ALS patient and a 1.5 year old notwithstanding), we arrived at Keystone for my 9am lesson. We tried out a few different models of bi-ski, essentially a bucket seat sled with 2 skis mounted underneath, to see what would fit me. Imagine forcing a Sasquatch into a baby stroller with skis and you get the idea.

Anyway, we made it work and headed to the chair-lift. They just lifted the bucket seat onto the chair and we were off. It was exhilarating. The sky was a magnificent blue, with no clouds in sight. The air was so cold and crisp, I soon realized my nose hair was frozen. And I loved it. I’ve daydreamed about that atmosphere for a long time, and I was finally there.

The first run down was amazing. Turns out I had more control than I expected. With two-outrigger skis on my arms, and the instructor helping guide me with a tether, I could turn back and forth by gently shifting my hips. When needed, the instructor could reign me in and take control with a handle bar behind my head. Two other BOEC skiers helped block traffic, as well as pick me up when I fell, which I learned is indeed possible.

We took seven or eight runs throughout the day, with a warm-up break for lunch. My feet were locked into the sled with little circulation, so it took awhile for them to defrost. I could go on for days trying to describe the whole adventure, but instead I’ve posted some pictures and video, which make it easier to see what I’m talking about. Plus my hands are shot from typing. Suffice to say I’m very glad I took the opportunity to go. Thank you to the folks at BOEC for making it possible. And thank you to my family for encouraging me to never say never again.


Matt said...

This sounds great. The page with photos is really funny. Thanks for sharing the good time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Scott
I have just watched your video. That was amazing! My compliments. I also love ski and mountains and ... have had ALS for 4 years. And have decided to get ski in Val Gardena in Italy with my family. Unfortunately my arms are not good as your ... but legs are quite good.
Chris from Poland