It has always been a desire of mine to acquaint myself with the adaptive skiing/snowboarding community and to get to know the people involved. Now with the U.S. Paralympics alpine ski team in Aspen training for the IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup, I am determined to take this opportunity to dive in and meet the amazing athletes competing.
My curiosity to get to know the athletes peaked one day recently when I was struggling to adhere my ancient skins onto my touring skis to skin up Tiehack, it was then that I took a moment to watch these incredible athletes using mostly their core to maneuver their equipment through the snow to head up to the lift. I decided then and there that mental endurance and appreciation for my ease of life were something that I was never going to take for granted.
My chance to initiate my introduction came yesterday when I got off the gondola at the top of Aspen Mountain to head over to the Sundeck to be interviewed by Aspen82 about AspenRealLife. Along the way I saw three men in sit skis and so I approached them and introduced myself. It was Andrew Kurka, Josh Elliot and Kevin Mather and they were there to train with AVSC for the World Cup finals.
When I got home and was able to do some research I found, according to TeamUSA.Org, that Andrew has broken a bone each of his first six seasons on the national team and has yet to complete a full season on the slopes: “The Alaska native, who now trains in Aspen, Colorado, has endured hardships at some of his biggest events. He broke his back during a training run prior to the 2011 Winter X Games and then again during his very first training run in Sochi ahead of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. In 2015, just three months after breaking his femur, he was able to win his first world championship medal with bronze in the super-G.”
Wanting more, after my interview I headed over to the race course where the athletes were training and I met Brad Alire, a.k.a. “Five Two”. Brad let me video the racers and filled me in on the achievements of the top skiers racing down such as; Stephanie Jallen, Laurie Stephens, Danelle and Rob Umstead (Rob guides Danelle who is visually impaired), and Staci Mannella.
As luck would have it, when the training was over I got on the lift to head back to the main part of the mountain and ended up on the chair with Kevin Jardine, High Performance Director of Paralympic Alpine Skiing, and so of course I asked his permission for an interview. Kevin graciously complied and gave me the quick version of the story of the Paralympic team and the true grit that these 18 top paralympic alpine skiers are made of as they travel around the world bringing in medals (watch interview below).
It’s official, I’m hooked and with each new athlete I meet I feel compelled to get out there with them and tell more of their amazing stories and help to spread disability awareness. So stay tuned for more as I head out tomorrow to watch them train on Aspen Highlands. I will also be there during the 2015-16 IPC Alpine Skiing World Cup Finals where the best skiers will compete for honours on Aspen Mountain.
For more information click HERE.