Skiing had never been something I could simply go enjoy. The activity required many things challenged by my disability. From the number of buckles required to be fastened. Like, the strap to my helmet. Or, the buckles to secure the ski boot. There was also carrying the skies and poles in from the parking lot. Many things transpired before ever hitting the slopes. For years, I would need assistance somewhere along the journey. There might be a clip or buckle my hands couldn’t quite handle. Sometimes it was trouble just trying to get my boots clipped into the skies. Beyond all of these hurdles was my love for skiing. Anytime I had someone to go up with, I loved the day. Getting out of the city and up into the snow. A winter day spent outside. Instead of inside on a couch, because it was too cold and wet. I wondered if the ability to go ski alone would ever arrive. The years were moving past. Usually indicating the slow breaking down of the body. While, cerebral palsy causes this process to move even quicker. It felt like I was running out of time to develop the strength needed. Skiing on my own would require better strength, balance, and hand dexterity. I didn’t know if the development of these skills would come to fruition. Even more complicated, I didn’t understand how to ask for these skills to be developed.
Life has been spent skiing with other people. Whether friends or family members. For as long as I can remember. Someone has been on the slopes. It helps to have people around during activities. Especially when skiing in the winter. Many things have the potential of going sideways on the slopes. Because skiing isn’t the safest thing we can find ourselves doing. But, that very uncertainty can lead to independence. The challenge of taking on something that isn’t so secure. Combining this with having cerebral palsy, adds another element. When thinking it might be best for someone with a disability to ski with others. This season, I found all of these factors could be put to rest. I realized it was possible to go up skiing by myself. Even with the challenges of being disabled. While, continuing to promise myself to stick with easy runs. Keeping clear of any situations that could find me getting into trouble. I remember arriving early on my first trip up alone. Wanting to get there before the crowds arrived. Believing less people would relieve some feelings of pressure. So, this first trip was taken in the middle of the week. Arriving about a half-hour before the skiing began. Arrive early, also provided me with a good parking place close to the entrance. Which, shortened my hike up to the lodge.
Many things went through the mind as I parked for my first solo trip. The checklist of things to be accomplished. A number of them requiring my hands to function well. The snaps and buckles on my equipment requiring attention before skiing. All of the things I had guarded against having to accomplish without the opportunity to have help. On this day, if I couldn’t get them accomplished, I couldn’t ski. Which I drove up to the mountain understanding. If anything went haywire in the process of getting ready to ski. If something wasn’t getting fastened or buckled and frustration began to mount. I told myself, it was okay to drive back home, and try another day. The first thing on my mental checklist to accomplish was fastening the helmet. The enclosure was exactly like that of a bicycle helmet, which has always been a challenge. It could take many minutes to accomplish, if at all. The buckle of a helmet has been something often requiring assistance. To my surprise, it worked out beautifully of this morning, without accomplishing it right away on my own, I used my reflection in the car window. The reflection helped me line up the two sides and the first major hurdle was crossed.
I wanted to jump for joy at feeling that chin strap lock into place. But, I knew there would be much more to accomplish. Getting my boots on was something less concerning. Once my feet were securely inside, I didn’t work to buckle them closed. As I planned to sit at one of the outdoor tables around the lodge. Making the buckling of the boots easier. As more challenges got accomplished around the car. Like, getting my goggles situated on my helmet and my jacked zipped closed. The confidence in my ability continued to rise. However, the stairs between myself and the lodge still loomed large. Navigating the steps with my skies over my shoulder and my poles in one hand, while balancing in the ski boots. When I neared the bottom of those steps, I remembered words of advice. If I get into an uncomfortable situation. Stop for a minute and take three slow breaths, then continue. I took my three breaths, as I came closer to the steps, and took each step slowly. Making it up the steps without even a stumble, felt like I had scaled the mountain. Some of the major challenges on my checklist were behind me, accomplished. There would be one more major hurdle to cross. Getting my boots buckled and ready to ski.
There was enough confidence inside me to buy my ticket. I purchased just a daisy ticket and went to sit at the table. The process began by working on my left boot. The boot requiring left hand involvement to close. My hand and wrist most impacted by my disability. Making sure my foot was firmly in place. I slowly worked my way through each of the four buckles. The buckles used to secure the lower leg were most challenging. By sitting on the bench, I could rotate my body over. Giving me the ability to place my right hand on the left, with the added pressure, the buckle snapped against the boot. I had discovered a way to apply more force and get the boot closed. It was another monumental accomplishment. Now, I could put on my skies, and off I went into the snow. That day was full of confidence boosting situations. A dream of going up to ski independently was achieved. The thought having been inside my head for years. The day changed something about me, but I would say it had happened over years. One of the major things has been improving the use of my hands. As Dr. Dana does the adjustments and muscle work on my wrists and arms each week. Bernard has me working with different balls in different ways, things I try talking about in this blog. The continued effort and creativity can lead to amazing places. I never thought the skill would be gained to go skiing solo.