From the moment I drove into Greek Peak and passed the DO NOT ENTER sign as I'd been directed (which sets the wonderful tone for the whole thing) and saw the banner on the adaptive ski center (THINK THE SLOPES ARE OUT OF REACH FOR YOU? WE DON'T THINK SO!) my hopes sky-rocketed the way they had when I was a little kid on my way to riding lessons. Walking through the door was like coming home to a place I'd never been.
Of the dozens and dozens, these are only the instructors, staff and volunteers present on the Thursday of the Winter Challenge ski week program. There are plenty more who come on the regular adaptive-ski weekends all through the season.
Of the four chairs down front, only two are campers like me; the other two wheelies are instructors, including one who started in Winter Challenge four years ago. In this mob are other former program skiers who've become devoted to the slopes, including a couple who met at last year's Challenge and plan to get married at Greek Peak this fall.
Every day was a roller coaster of literal highs and lows: altitude, temperatures and fears overcome. Every night we trooped off to push tables together in a different restaurant and celebrate in rowdy style. When crutches clattered to the floor, I wasn't the only one who looked to see if they were mine.
Once, in our casual convoy of vehicles shuttling from resort to hotel, we forgot to plan ahead and found ourselves in a unique situation. Stacy couldn't transfer to her wheelchair and we'd forgotten to bring someone to help. Tracy had one arm; Andrew was blind; I have one leg. Hell, we couldn't even get Stacy's chair out of the back and put the wheels on...We stood there in the middle of wonderfully politically incorrect (DO NOT ENTER!) joke. How many adaptive skiers does it take to _____? Someone went off to find a guy from the hotel. It wasn't the only time.
One night an instructor in chair tried to recruit a guy he didn't know (also in a wheelchair) into the program. In the past this has been known to work. Robyn, who runs Winter Challenge, bragged of one amputee tri-tracker, "It took me three years, but I got him in! Now you can't keep him off skis!" A random stranger on crutches in a restaurant was challenged to a race by One-legged John. (He declined. His loss.)
People like these take my breath away. They restore my faith in humanity that I can too easily lose just listening to the news. I count myself unbelievably lucky to live close enough to this community that is so eager to help me rediscover a sport I thought I'd lost.
Gotta get me a sign for my door: Gone Skiing!
Next time: Amputee on a Ski Part 3 of 3 (The Fun Stuff!)