Skiing was one thing I was sure I would never do again.  I had loved to ski.  I loved being outdoors, away from the hot, flat terrain of Florida.  I loved the physical exercise, the cold wind in my face.  I loved the rush of adrenaline as I dared myself to go faster, steeper.  So when my friend Tracy called last year to see if I wanted to try adaptive skiing when I visited Colorado, my answer was an emphatic “no.”

Tracy (left) and I ski Winter Park before my hemorrhage.

Then, I reconsidered.  I’m usually game to try anything — once.   I agreed, as long as it was understood that I might hate it and want to quit after the first day.  We made plans to return to the same mountain we had always skied together in Winter Park, Colorado.

J.P. (right) getting ready for my transfer.

It just so happens, Winter Park is also the home of The National Sports Center for the Disabled.  The NSCD has a summer program with adaptive sports like camping, horseback riding and river rafting.  Their winter program includes, among other things, tubing, snowboarding and skiing.  When I arrived, I met my instructor, J.P.  We discussed my abilities and I was fitted for the equipment.

The wind in my face.

As it turned out, I loved it.  I had worried participating as a quadriplegic would make me miss the joys of able-bodied skiing too much.  But I discovered adaptive skiing had some joys of its own.  For starters, I was tethered to a really good skier.  J.P. was much better than I had ever been.  As a result, I was able to go much faster in my “bucket” (correct term sit-ski or mono-ski) than I ever could’ve gone on my own.  I was able to enjoy the wind in my face like never before!  And, as someone who always found great fun in falling down, I will tell you there were even enough near misses and short stops on that busy weekend to keep me entertained.  As we returned to the Center on our last day, anticipating hot showers and hot toddies, I noted one more upside — no equipment to lug!  (Sorry, I can’t say the same for J.P.)

I have vowed to keep returning.  I’m not able to hold poles, but believe it or not, there is actually a skill to get better at — leaning.  The NSCD will keep a file with my name on it.  And to think, I almost missed the experience.  Never say never.

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