January 30th, 2017
Well, well, well. I had my first “real” lesson on the slopes of Canada Olympic Park yesterday. For those who just are seeing my posts now, I’m learning how to sit ski, aka how to hurt yourself sitting very close to the ground. First off, I LOVE IT!! Despite the fact that I’ve started an intimate relationship with the snow, I find it fascinating to be learning a new skill and being able to be out on the slopes again after years of recovering from surgery after surgery.
Second, I’m terrible at sit skiing. I spend a lot of time tipped over on my side. The conditions yesterday were extremely fast, icy and rutted up. It makes pointing one single ski that your behind at strapped into somewhat terrifying. Falling in a sit ski is painful because it jars your shoulders if you don’t get your arms out of the way fast enough. The issue that I was having is with my new ski pants, the sit ski wouldn’t buckle up at the top, which left my butt and hips free to move around. This makes sit skiing very difficult since you need to use your hips to turn and they must be strapped in securely in order to make your body and ski one cohesive unit. I suffered severe pain with every crash, which I think everyone sort of down played until they saw the hard, terrible bruises on my sides.
Third, I’m terrible at sit skiing. Oh wait, I said that already. I had a great time, but I fall over a lot. Did I say that already? How sit skiing works: you’re strapped onto a ski, but the ski acts in the same manner as a snowboard. So, your brain needs to mesh the two sports together, but remembering you are skiing and cannot use your legs to do so, but that you must treat the ski like a snowboard. By the time I did my last run of the night, I had started to get a grasp of making my brain do what I now wanted it to do. I had three instructors working with me, which I must admit, seemed like overkill. There was a lot of men yelling different things at me, which sometimes made it a bit overwhelming. Brian was actually a sit skier and was in his mono ski so I really could get a look as to what someone does while sit skiing. I enjoyed him. Tony is the head honcho and he’s always very nice. He is very passionate about getting disabled skiers out on the mountain. Ron is a mono ski instructor and is very kind and gentle; he’s the one on the hill that makes you feel good about yourself even if you’ve spent the last four runs removing layers of skin off your face. He’s the guy that says, “hey, I know that you fell 16 times on this run and you look like you were dragged through the blender, but you totally rocked it.” My wife was there to learn how to pick me up and get me up the carpet tow and to take photos and videos of me throughout the night. It’s also her job to boost my ego by cheering even when I managed to make the sit ski roll the entire way down the hill. Sadly, she didn’t get to do a ton of skiing, but she’ll be able to be an instructor for the program as well, which will mean more disabled skiers can participate! And, she can also be my assistant and learn the proper way to get me on and off the lifts so that we can hit the slopes ourselves once I’m done the program. Sunshine Ski Area rents mono skis that anyone can come and rent once you’ve taken their one hour course on using their equipment.
The instructors, I will add, are ALL giving their time for free. They volunteer to do this program, a program that brings them out twice a week, once to learn how to instruct and then another night to teach. They are amazing people, who out of the goodness of their hearts, bring joy to people like me, and those much worse off than me. I can only imagine the enjoyment that a person gets racing down the slopes when they experience the rest of their lives confined to a chair and with little to no ability to move their bodies. It is these people that remind me not to wallow in self pity about my life. To learn more about the program, visit http://disabledskiing.ca/ and for Alberta specifically, visit http://www.cadsalberta.ca/.
Fourth, there is an extremely important post lesson activity we must all participate in. It helps to bring the team together and to give instructors and students an opportunity to discuss the day’s lessons. This is called “Beer in the Bar.” Well, that’s why I’m calling it. This is where we go to check out our wounds and recover our pride after spending two hours cleaning the dirt off the snow with our faces. And, most importantly, where the instructors can all come over and have a good laugh at my mad mono ski skills!
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my night on the slopes. I have started to accept my limitations and have managed to keep myself from being frustrated at the longer learning curve and the increased difficulty of doing things that are physically demanding. My body does not work like it once did, and especially with pain as a significant limiting factor, I am learning to take the skill for what it is and just enjoy the time I have out there just being. Despite the fact I don’t learn skills like an Olympian does not mean that I cannot have a great time with the abilities that I have. I did hurt my shoulder at one point that brought tears to my eyes, but I got over it quickly and had almost my best run of the day right after it!
In the end, I learned a lot about my sport. I learned a little bit about me. And, I discovered that if you fall 47 times on the slopes in one night, beer tastes like Heaven. It was totally worth basically being exorcised on the hill to come out on the other side with a Heineken and new friends. Maybe next time, I’ll start with Heineken and then do the skiing after. Then if I hurt myself I won’t even know!
PS – I don’t really intend to make my blog a political page, but sometimes I feel cheeky and I just can’t resist. Donald Trump (I’m Canadian so am somewhat safe from your policies), I know you like to make fun of the disabled and you clearly think that we are lesser humans, along with just about every type of human that isn’t just like you. I’d like you to meet me on the slopes some day with your expensive ski suit and smug attitude, and spend a day in a mono ski with all of us “cripples,” just to see how hard it is and how amazing it is that people can do this even if they aren’t as perfect as you.