Skiing and Cerebral Palsy: I Became a Skier 

This season of skiing was pretty momentous. I went from feeling like a beginner, riding the easiest chairlift, to advancing my ability. For a person who has cerebral palsy, there is a little extra excitement in advancing a skill level. I thought the ceiling for me, might have been skiing beginner runs. Which, I was prepared to ski for my entire skiing career. My feeling was, skiing even the easiest of slopes, was helping my disability, improve. The balance required to move down the hill was helping me improve daily activities. With the requirement of learning to shift my weight and coordinate the motion of all four of my limbs. The trips up to ski were improving my mental health, as well. Skiing provided an escape from the grey, rainy winter days of the pacific northwest. So, whether I advanced beyond the beginner stage, or couldn’t find the ability. I felt there was much to gain from getting myself up into the mountains. There has been a little sadness in skiing alone. Parts of me dreamt of advancing my skiing ability to ski with others. During my first season of skiing consistently, this dream didn’t seem possible, as I continued to be challenged on the beginner slope. Even with my ten trips up to the mountain last season, no part of me wanted to take on an intermediate run. I was still finding myself falling on the bunny slopes, unable to fully control my skis. 

There has often been a lot of fear and apprehension around skiing. Many years, I would venture up to ski once, maybe twice. Over the last ten years, my days of skiing hardly ever took me onto the intermediate slopes. When I did gain the courage to make an attempt at the blue runs, disaster often struck. The advanced terrain would bring on a fall, followed by frustration that was overwhelming. The instances had me feeling like my body couldn’t handle the advancement on skis. Resigning myself to what seemed to be inevitable, freed me up to just ski the easy runs. So, I spent an entire season working on overcoming my fear of the mountain. Convincing myself of the ceiling of my ability and learning to accept the facts. There was joy and mental health in skiing solo. So much joy that I felt a season pass would be worth the purchase. Even if it meant spending another entire season skiing only the bunny slopes. This season, which was my second season of consistent skiing, began with that premise. My entire ski season would be spent skiing the Daisy run, the easy slopes, and I would make the season pass worth the cost. Those became my two goals for the season, without truly believing improvement could occur.  As the ski season began, I had a new set of skis, and things were feeling good. 

My new equipment was leaving me feeling better balanced on the slopes. It took a couple trips up to the slopes, in order for me to gain the feel for my new skis. They seemed to move much more quickly than the ones of my previous year. The skis I was using the previous season, of 2021, were purchased somewhere around 2007 or 2008. So, it had been some time since upgrading my skis. The older skis were bought with the idea of just skiing a couple times a year. They weren’t purchased with the intention of using them with any kind of consistency. My older set of skis were heavy, slow, and challenging to maneuver quickly. So, when I got myself into trouble, it was almost impossible to get myself out. But, for the purpose of only going up a couple times per season, they felt solid under foot. My few runs with my new skis, in January of this year, 2023, the skis felt scary. They were much faster than my older ones. They were much lighter as well, responding quickly to my movements. Where, the old skis had a heaviness to them, making them react more slowly. I could get away with small mistakes and the skies weight, seemed to keep it grounded. Now, it felt like I had to focus on each move and remain alert. During the first couple days of this season, I was sure the new skis would doom me, as I considered going back to my older ones. But, I convinced myself to keep practicing on the new skis and just take it slow. By my third trip up to the mountain, something happened that changed my ski season.

I can feel the experience as if the moment had taken place yesterday. I could probably even take you to the exact spot on the beginner slope at Stevens. My new skis were starting to feel better. I was getting accustomed to the quicker reaction they had to my movements. The responsiveness was allowing my speed to increase while skiing Daisy. But, in this particular moment, control over my skis slipped away for an instant. With the skis of my past year, the mistake I had made, along with the speed I was moving, would have surely resulted in a fall. However, because of the lighter weight in the newer skis, I was able to make the correction on the fly. The result was no crash and the recovery increased the confidence in my ability. My previous equipment was too heavy and grounded to the snow, for a correction like that to be made. The instant this recovery took place, I felt it possible to make improvements as a skier. The comfort with the new equipment went up exponentially. From that moment forward, my speed continued to grow on the beginner runs. I was suddenly working to prepare myself for more complicated terrain. The following trip up to the slopes would be a busy night for skiing. Looking at the crowds around the beginner lift convinced me, it was time for moving onto the intermediate terrain. With the new-found confidence in my ability to have better control over my skis, I took on the new terrain.

My first night of skiing the intermediate terrain had its moment of fear. After a day of good snow, the runs were pretty chewed up with bumps. Making it challenging to navigate not only the steeper terrain, but the snow itself. But, I only took one tumble in a handful of runs down the more challenging slopes. I found it easier to control and maneuver my new skis. Having someone trusted, there with me, during the adventure, made things feel more comfortable. Following the night of skiing on the intermediate runs, I remained uncomfortable in taking them on solo. For the next few ski trip with myself, I stuck with the beginner slopes. Only venturing over to the challenging terrain with company. Until, on a day later on in the season, I felt the courage to try solo. It happened following three or four more days of skiing the intermediate terrain with someone trusted. Those days of skiing with someone, provided the confidence in my ability to start learning the new level. However, until I could ski the blue runs comfortable, on my own, it would be challenging to find real improvement. So, the courage came up inside me to give it a try, solo. After arriving at the resort, I went directly to the more challenging chairlift, without giving myself the opportunity to chicken out. The ride up the chairlift alone was frightening, with apprehension over skiing the blue runs alone, coursing through my bones. The first run was skied without incident and I chose to take on the chair once more. My second ski on the intermediate terrain led me back to the comfort of the beginner slopes. But, I had done it. Accomplishing the intermediate terrain on my own, feeling like it could be done, again.

From that day forward, I have begun each of my days of skiing on the intermediate chair. Skiing down the more challenging terrain. Whether I find myself skiing alone, or with company. It was a huge step for me to take on the challenge of doing those runs, solo. This last week, I went up to ski at Stevens for the final time of the season. The snow had fallen pretty solidly for the previous few days. But, the forecast indicated, the warmth of spring was just around the corner. Taking the snow from our mountains, turning the thought of skiing into an unappealing idea. My final trip up to Stevens for the season provided a crystal-clear day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the crowds didn’t show. I found myself on about the sixth chair of the morning, heading up the mountain for intermediate skiing. That morning I spent some solid couple hours on the intermediate chair. Somewhere in the middle of my time, maybe the fifth or sixth run. I hit a patch of snow I wasn’t ready for, and experienced a pretty good fall. It took me a good ten minutes to collect myself and get back up on my skis. But, fear didn’t leave me scrambling back to the Daisy chair. Instead, I skied the exact run of my fall another two times, before calling it a day. On the third pass, I skied my usual route back to the Daisy chair for a couple cool down runs, and called it a day.

A true advancement of my skill level on skis was felt. Finding the ability to now ski the intermediate terrain, solo. While, feeling comfortable enough to take a spill, gather myself, and get back up without the fear. Heading down to load onto the same chair and do the exact run, again. Revealed to me that I had found a way of making myself into a skier. The ceiling I thought would hold me back on the slopes, had been broken. Now, the possibility of gaining more and more skill on skis was working its way into the equation. Meaning the patience people have shown in skiing with me, might be disappearing. Making it fun and challenging for the company I ski with, as well. The area in which my skiing has advanced to, feels exciting. The weather has started the warming process of early spring in the Seattle area. Bringing our ski season to a close in just a few days. For the first time, last year, I was saddened to watch the snow melt, and winter disappear. The same emotion washes over me this spring. With the excitement of my skiing advancing, my wish would be to keep skiing. But, I’m enthusiastic over the skill achieved this season. When I can finally believe my ability to improve on the slopes might be limitless. I look forward to taking on the challenge of improving, even further. It feels cool to reach the point of calling myself an adequate skier, who just so happens to have cerebral palsy.

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