It snowed all day yesterday, fine, white flakes blown sideways by blustery winds. As the storm ended and the skies cleared last night, I looked out across the valley at the constellation of lights that top the far mountain. They are not stars, but rather the lights of a ski resort celebrating the arrival of twelve inches of fresh powder. I am not a skier but Lauren was. Yes, Lauren used to ski. A friend teaches adaptive skiing at a ski resort about two hours from our home. She convinced a very reticent me to let Lauren give it a try about ten years ago. Lauren LOVED it. A popular program, we could only get two or three appointments for Lauren to ski each year but it was always well worth the trip. There are so few opportunities for recreation for Lauren that it was exciting to be able to give her this chance to do something so freeing and stimulating. Now diagnosed with osteoporosis caused by years of seizure drug use, we can no longer subject Lauren to the even minimal risk associated with adaptive skiing. So, her skiing days are over.
It was a real leap of faith for me to allow Lauren to try skiing. I don’t like heights, speed, or the cold. I was being asked to strap my totally dependent child into a sit ski and turn her over to two strangers. They would boost her up onto the ski lift, travel far atop a mountain where I could no longer see her, and then let her ski down a slope by steering her with two long straps. You have got to be kidding me. But, my husband (a skier) said, “You have to let her try.” One look at her face when she arrived back at the bottom of the hill told me everything I needed to know. She glowed.
We made many ski trips over the next few years. I was never able to stop fretting at the bottom of the hill, ready to check on her after every run, but she was always fine. I especially remember one day, the coldest ever. It was zero degrees. I was as worried as my cold-numbed brain would allow. I had every piece of warm, protective gear on the child that I could. Her face was totally covered by a mask and topped by a helmet. Afraid that she was uncomfortable or nearing frostbite, I removed the mittens from my freezing fingers so that I could raise her mask to check her expression. Only a brilliant smile lurked beneath. She wasn’t cold – just having a blast.
The program we attended was run by the Adaptive Sports Foundation based at Windham Mountain in New York State. (http://www.adaptivesportsfoundation.org/) They run programs in many sports throughout the year. You can also find out more about their skiing program at http://www.windhammountain.com/lessons/adaptive-programs. If you want to learn about the availability of adaptive skiing in many parts of the world check out the SkiCentral website at http://skicentral.com/adaptive.html.
Lauren’s success in participating in skiing was due in no small part to the amazing, and well-trained volunteers who make this program possible. They give up much of their personal time to become trained and make skiing accessible for individuals with disabilities. They allowed my child to feel the joy and exhiliration of flying down the side of mountain and helped allay my fears so that I did not hold Lauren back. They were caring and so very kind. I would often see them leaning over to wipe Lauren’s wet chin, with the extra bandanas they had stuffed into their pockets, as the ski lift crawled up the mountain. Though I may have preferred they traverse the mountain at a speed more suitable to Lauren’s beloved Mr. Turtle, Lauren’s favorite instructors were the ones who fulfilled her desire for speed and mogul hopping.
On a day like yesterday, when we are curled up around the fire watching Mother Nature turn our world white, I am reminded of the snowy days of delight that skiing allowed Lauren to experience and saddened by the loss of an all too rare opportunity for her to escape a life limited by the places that two wheels can travel.