In Kelly’s Words – Ski Racing Safety Update
Whether you’re new to the KBF or a long-time supporter, you likely know that the KBF has been a transformational force in the alpine ski racing community. Since the beginning we have been committed to improving safety and preventing an accident like mine. Back in the beginning it was the biggest component of our mission. Today we are doing more than ever in the ski racing community, but because we’ve grown so much in helping the spinal cord injury community get active in all sports (not just skiing!), for every $1 we spend for ski racing safety we spend $7 in adaptive sports. And for that reason our emails, social media posts, and other messaging largely follows suit.
But we’re still having a huge impact in alpine ski racing and it is something I’m very committed to. As the weather turns cold and ski season is coming up, I want to spend a little bit of time talking about our history with ski racing and the impact we continue to make in the ski world.
I grew up skiing from the age of 3 and started racing when I was 7. My mom ski raced in the 1976 Olympics and my dad raced and was a ski coach at Middlebury College for 10+ years before my sister and I were born. So skiing is in my blood.
My injury occurred in 2006 when I was ski racing for Middlebury College and I fell and hit a lift tower that was not properly protected causing me to break my back and sustain a spinal cord injury. Even in the days after my accident I knew I wanted to do something to make sure an accident like mine never happens again.
In 2006 ski racing was in a different era and safety was not a focus. It was more important to get the race off and safety often was an afterthought (I’m sure some people will take issue with this generalization, but I do think it is fair). Immediately after my accident my family began to advocate for an increased focus on safety and then, as the Kelly Brush Foundation was formed within months of my injury, the KBF took up the cause. I truly believe that we successfully changed the culture of ski racing so that safety is now a priority and a topic of conversation every day. I can’t tell you the number of ski racers who were around when I was injured and remember the difference in the culture from before and after my injury. I love hearing those stories.
Fast forward to 2019 and the KBF continues to be a force in alpine ski racing. We hold a grant program every year that started in 2007 which provides safety equipment (b-net, padding for towers/snow making equipment, etc.) to clubs and mountains across the US. We have provided so much b-net (the fencing the lines race trails so if someone falls they hit that and not other obstacles like trees, lift towers, etc.) that we feel that every single ski racer in the US races or trains on a hill each year that has b-net provided by the KBF. This is pretty cool! We spend about $100,000 each year on this grant program.
Over the last few years we have added different programs to continue to make an even bigger impact in ski racing safety. We have created a consultant position who acts as is an international leader in best practices for safety in ski racing. He travels around the US giving education presentation as well as on hill seminars and is a consultant for best practices in safety.
We also partnered with the Davis family, whose son Jonathan suffered a severe laceration injury while ski racing in 2018, to lead the Stop the Bleed movement. These accidents are happening with much greater frequency, though no one really knows why. Together with the Davis family we have compiled and distributed over 1,000 bleed kits that are carried by coaches, official, parents, or anyone at training or races. Many of these kits have already been used on lacerations injures, at least 2 of which were severe and may have been fatal if not for the use of the kits. To learn more about the Stop the Bleed initiative, click here >>.
Personally, skiing and ski racing continue to mean a lot to me. I still love to ski. I was never scared to ski or mad at the sport after my injury, I just wanted to get back up on the hill anyway that I could. I’m now teaching my 3-year-old daughter to ski and I’d love it if she wanted to race one day. I love watching ski races and following the world cup circuit. The KBF will have a tent at the Killington World Cup again and look for our signs on the hill! And I’ll be at the Beaver Creek World Cup in Colorado in December. I love the support I received from the ski community after my injury and I continue to feel that every time I’m in this community. The ski racing world is really small and I can’t wait to continue our work and make an even greater impact.
Dylan and Nell Update:
Nell is almost 8 months and really wasn’t eating solid foods until last week. Being the second child, we kept forgetting to give her solids – it’s just so much easier to breast feed her! We would be busy in the morning or evening, and giving her solid foods every day just kept slipping by. So we found ourselves at almost 8 months and rarely giving them. It was also hard because every time we gave her purees, she would gag or spit them out. I then noticed that when I was eating a muffin she just kept trying to eat it. So we decided to forgo the purees and just do regular foods! She is still gagging often but she’s been eating things like bread, pancakes, muffins, and pasta great. She has had some broccoli and cantaloupe as well. Phew! Dylan did great with purees starting at 6 months but wouldn’t eat anything solid until almost a year old. Nell hated purees but is finally doing regular solids well. It’s not perfect but it’s nice to have her eating some!