I (Zeke) made it out to Breckenridge, CO last week for my first “Hartford Ski Spectacular” hosted by Disabled Sports USA (aka “Ski Spec”). It is one of the biggest winter sports festivals for people with disabilities. There are clinics for adaptive skiing instructors and athletes alike, as well as vendors hawking their wares and others in the industry (like me) learning, networking, and celebrating all things skiing. In the last few years, they’ve added nordic skiing, sled hockey, and other winter sports.
Ski Spec Base Area – Time Lapse
Best part for me was skiing with Jimmy, a 2015 KBF Grant Recipient that was getting fit for his new Dynaccess Tensor monoski, the very one that the KBF helped purchase. Just a few months ago I read his grant application along with the Grant Committee and was just meeting him for the first time. Young guy, had just turned 30 the week before, in a wheelchair from an incomplete SCI (meaning he has some sensation and movement below his level of injury, but not enough to be mobile) at T-12 (just above the waist). When I first met him in the lodge, he was down on himself for not skiing very well that week, his competitive side, an energy he used to channel into motocross, showing through.
Jimmy filled me in on his story during an afternoon of skiing and lift rides. He suffered a spinal cord injury in 2008 in a motocross accident. He had a rough first few years post-injury. Then he was approached by someone at his therapy gym that was taking applications for an adaptive ski program scholarship in Durango, CO. Though he never had seen snow in his life (he’s from Southern California), he applied for the scholarship and got it. It didn’t take long to fall in love with the sport. After spending the next 2 winters in Durango learning, and then teaching, monoskiing in a borrowed monoski from the program, he applied to us this summer for his very own monoski.
Out on the hill, the guy ripped. It wasn’t hard to see what skiing meant to him. He said he’d been recruited for some local basketball and rugby teams, but the former motocross racer only wanted to be outside, going fast, and off the beaten path. For him, that was skiing: smooth, fast, terrain, leaning into turns, wind in his face. I don’t think he was a fan of the cold, but that was a minor inconvenience for the joy skiing gave him. For a guy like me that was technically on the hill that day working (I’m not complaining….) and took the sport for granted having spent much of my youth in a ski town, he reminded me just what was special about this sport: pure, genuine fun and freedom.
We’re going to hear more from this guy as he spends another winter in Durango, ripping laps at Purgatory Resort and getting into racing. Good luck Jimmy and keep reminding people why we ski!