Some experiences make you feel more alive than usual – more aware, more connected, more excited. I knew I had found something special when I realized that I didn’t even care about the cold air slowly numbing my face, because as I flew down the hill, I felt free.
I’ve had three amazing days of downhill skiing this year, thanks to the adaptive sports program at Perfect North Slopes near Cincinnati. Those of you who have seen me trip on perfectly flat surfaces may be curious about how I can ski. Here is a picture of a bi-ski with outriggers.
The bi-ski has a stiff seat, called a bucket, that sits on top of two skis. I wear the outriggers on my arms like my crutches, and keep the curved ends on the snow. As I’m skiing, I move my arms in the direction that I want to turn.
The instructors use a teaching technique called tethering to assist with turning and speed control. Tethers are long straps that attach to the back of the bucket and go around an instructor’s wrists. Typically, a couple of other instructors ski on either side of the adaptive skier to help with crowd control (and to help the adaptive skier back up, on the rare occasion that she falls over). Here is a picture of me being tethered.
Technicalities aside, sports are a great equalizer. When I ski sitting down and you ski standing up, we share the same snow. We have the same goal of getting to the bottom of the hill, regardless of what equipment we are using.
When I noticed people staring at me in line for the ski lift, I felt proud. I could (and probably will) write an entire blog entry about how much I hate when people stare at me. But skiing was different. I hoped that seeing me made people think about adaptive sports a little differently. Adaptive sports aren’t limited to professional athletes and large-scale events like the Paralympics. With access to the right equipment and training, people with disabilities in any community can play sports, and they can do so right alongside their non-disabled peers.
I was also proud to be surrounded by fantastic allies. The adaptive team at Perfect North is, well, perfect. They are patient teachers who put aside my disability and focused on growing my ability. They never treated me like I was fragile or needy. Their senses of humor made me feel like I was in a group of friends who loved to ski together, and I just happened to be the only one who skied sitting down. I am so grateful for them, and the way they’ve made my world feel bigger.