Yesterday was the final day of winter.  And although I am really looking forward to sunny spring days and warm summer nights, I am going to miss all the winter activities.  I recently learned to ski despite the fact that I thought skiing was something that I would never do.  Mainly because every time I have pictured myself skiing, I envisioned heading straight into a tree or some other object/person not within my field of vision.  Although running into objects makes for some great stories and blog material, it’s not my idea of fun.
Maybe it was the Winter Olympics, or my dad telling me about a skier with RP in the Paralympics that inspired me to try cross-county skiing this year and hopefully alpine skiing next year.  I had no idea that adaptive skiing even existed, but once I started looking into it more, I learned that there are multiple organizations and foundations that support skiers with disabilities.  Although I have not yet had the opportunity to receive any special training or adaptive tools, it is something I am looking into for the future.

I’ve been living in a mountain town for over 7 years, and now I am finally starting to experience all there is to offer right outside my front door.  So I went from never having skied before, to skiing 5 straight days in a row, and loved (almost) every minute of it.  My mom and I took a lesson, which was fun because she had also never tried skiing before.  Once we figured out how to get our boots in the bindings, we were off! Sort of.  There was some falling involved, but we had a great teacher and soon found ourselves gliding along (mostly).
In terms of my vision, Nordic skiing was easier than I had anticipated.  There are not a lot of obstacles in Nordic skiing and, for me, it was pretty easy to stay on the path once I got my skis in the right grooves.  When the sun was out, and I had my polarized shades on, I found the shadows against the snow had a dark enough contrast for me to follow the path.  But when there was not enough contrast from the sun, it was often hard for me to anticipate which way the path was meandering and when there was an incline or decline.  I think this is where some adaptive skiing techniques/tools could really be helpful.  But in the meantime, my family and friends are my best guides.
Skiing with my husband was the most helpful for me because (as usual) we are so in sync and he just knows to ski ahead so I can follow his path, and he shouts an occasional “small hill coming up ahead” over his shoulder.  I’ve said it in previous posts, but there is just something about some people, like my husband, that is so seamless and easy when they assist me.  I continue to be thankful for this in my life.  And I was fascinated to learn about Danelle Umstead, a competitive alpine skier who also has RP, and recently competed in the Sochi Paralympics.  Her husband is her skiing guide, and I highly recommend checking out their inspirational story.
After a few days of skiing with my mom and husband, I was feeling somewhat prepared when my two best’ies from Seattle arrived with their children for a few days of playing in the snow.  The first day we went out, we got a bit of a late start.  We also did not anticipate how slow we would need to go with young children whom had never skied before.  We started on our ski journey around 3:45pm, and after about an hour, we realized that we were not sure how much longer we had until the path would lead us back to where we started.  And, in fact, we were not entirely sure WHICH path to take to get back to the beginning.  As we encouraged our kiddos to pick up the pace, I could feel my anxiety level rising.  Similar feeling to my post a few years ago “When Darkness Comes”.  To use an analogy my daughter would love, it’s like I am Cinderella at the ball and I know that at the stroke of “midnight” (darkness), everything will be different for me.  If the kids had not been skiing with us, I would not have been so panicked because my friends are so good at guiding me in the dark and I am used to having to adjust in darkness.  But it was the thought of not being able to help guide the children back safely in the dark that really got my heart pumping.
We finally had the brilliant idea to have the kids take their skis off so they could walk without falling, so we were able to pick up the pace a bit.   Also, I had forgotten how much light snow actually provides, and even once the darkness started to set in, I was able to follow the path better than I anticipated. But we still were not quite sure where we were going or how long it would take.  It had been at least 45 minutes since we had crossed paths with any other people, so there was no one we could ask for directions.
But we finally came across a good Samaritan named Judy who was out for an early evening ski and knew the paths very well.  She noticed that our group needed assistance.  What gave us away? Was is the whining children? Or the bewildered looks on our faces? Or perhaps it was because we were screaming “help!” at the top of our lungs.  Only kidding on that last one – we had somehow not reached utter panic.  My poor husband was at home worried sick about us, though.  It was close to 7pm by the time we got back to the car.  We laughed as we loaded the kids into the car – bemused at our unintended adventure.  And believe it or not, we woke up the next morning and went out skiing on those same trails again.

I typically dread winter time, but this new hobby has me looking forward to next winter already.  It’s also served as a bit of an eye opener (oh yes – pun intended) that there are plenty of sports and activities I can do and all sorts of adaptations out there for people with low vision.  It’s just a matter of seeking it out and going for it.

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3 thoughts on “Adaptive Skiing

  1. Thank you for sharing this terrific story. There is so much beauty and fun to be enjoyed in the winter. I can’t wait for you to try downhill next year.

  2. Great read and fun to think of winter as an opportunity for new sports. I have thought about cross-country skiing but never actually adventured out and tried it. Thanks for the inspiration!

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