I felt as though traveling to Mammoth would be challenging. For me, it would be hurtful to arrive unprepared for the weekend. The idea of fatigue taking over my body, causing the ability on the slopes to become problematic, would have been a lot to swallow. I wanted to be a part of the activities without holding up the fun. With cerebral palsy, there will always be the feeling of slowing down the excitement. An aspect of limitations that could turn a trip into something unadventurous for others, I wanted to avoid the possibility, at least to the extent within my power. So, the work had to be put in, before the trip to Mammoth could become reality. It meant progressing in my ability to ski, before the commitment was made. The development of skill to ski the intermediate runs, had to be achieved. If the trip was to be made, I wanted the ability to see the mountain. Instead of sticking to only the easiest of slopes. My ability to ski the intermediate slopes was found months before departing. But, the strength to ski for an extended period of time, remained in question. It would require physical training and emotional discipline for weeks, to prepare for the trip. Without the guarantee of my efforts resulting in a successful trip. Partly because I didn’t know what success would truly look like. Along with the inexperience when it came to preparing for a trip of this nature. I hadn’t been on a ski vacation since childhood.
As a child, it feels like we can simply roll out of bed, and be ready for a ski trip. It even feels that way for typically developed adults. I never remember hearing about an adult preparing to go on a vacation. Never recall listening to stories of someone putting in hours at the gym to ski at a resort. Or, change up their diet, for a couple days of skiing. Maybe, I simply haven’t been listening, but nothing comes to mind. It feels pretty different to have cerebral palsy and prepare for a ski vacation. The coordination inside my body is different, the muscles I have to work with are different. Everything has weakness that others who are typically developed don’t experience. Meaning most everything takes extra effort and more planning to execute. There has to be an element of desire inside for things like the Mammoth trip to work well. For my body with cerebral palsy, the vacation required an attachment of more meaning than just a fun idea. There had to be a reason for me to grind toward the concept of succeeding. I found it in the idea of being around family. Wanting to contribute to the fun being had during adventure. Instead of allowing cerebral palsy to win and strand me in the lodge, while others had the fun. It was going to require a discipline, I can sometime struggle to find.
The first major part of my physical planning had been accomplished. The intermediate runs at my home resort of Stevens were being skied consistently. Beginning in the middle of February, I was starting to take the blue runs on my own, with enough comfort. Meaning I could ski them whenever I found myself on the mountain, giving me time to practice. It was during those ski runs. I began to feel the comfort, allowing me to start planning a Mammoth trip. Something I had wanted to experience for years. But, there was still trouble with my strength and endurance. The skiing I was doing on a weekly basis was only lasting a couple of hours. I had never experienced with skiing two consecutive days. Or, worked toward skiing for a longer duration of time. It was time for going to work inside the gym, in preparation. Luckily, I had started working with a new training staff in the middle of February. The two male trainers had a pretty different philosophy from my previous trainer. Within just a couple weeks, they had changed my entire ability on the ski slopes. These workouts had become different with the introduction of weight. Where, my previous training sessions had evolved into movements more aligned with occupational therapy. The shift happening without my knowledge or awareness about the differences. Hardly any of my prior exercises had weight added to them, which turned my training into coordination work, rather than the focus of strength and stability.
When the new training began, it felt like the old style was new, again. Bringing my session back to the similarity of the second trainer I worked with. A trainer who understood, better than any other trainer, how to push my abilities. He had a philosophy that we come into the gym to lift heavy things and cerebral palsy didn’t make me the exception to the rule. He built my body into one, which could function athletically. Believing the coordination would come out of improved strength and stability. Build from the ground up, with weighted exercises like, squats, lunges, and deadlifts. My new trainers have a similar philosophy, but have added on with upper body movement I haven’t done in years. Bringing back an emphasis on the bench-press and the row. Putting to use both the dumbbells and the barbell. The philosophy on training felt like it changed my bodies functionality overnight. Though, even a few months into the program, much work remains to completely change my fitness level. The biggest gift with the change in training has been with skiing. The possibility of going to Mammoth would not have become a reality without their work on improving my fitness. I had promised myself that the advancement beyond the beginner slopes had to be made before a trip to Mammoth. Once, I felt the improvement in my skiing, it was time to put in the work, on my fitness.
I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. The possibility of real improvement to my skiing ability. The chance of making a ski trip to Mammoth worth the journey. But, I understood the work to achieve a fun vacation had just started. There were some extra training sessions to help along our path. Ones not used with my trainer of the past few years. The confidence of an improved style of training was becoming apparent. So, with a couple months to go, before the trip to Mammoth, we started training four times per week. Something I had never experienced prior to taking the leap. Then, in the midst of our eight-week preparation, we elevated into five training sessions per week. The option of working five days per week turned out to be an overextension of my ability. After attempting it during a two-week period, we powered back to four training sessions per week. However, the ability to work through the five-day sessions left me hopeful for a good trip. Those couple weeks came not long before the departure for California. I found my tipping point to be training four days in succession. The four-consecutive day structure has been the top end of my limit for training. Without this period of preparation for the trip, I might have never found my tipping point. The challenging work payed off on multiple fronts.
When arriving in Mammoth Lakes, it was challenging to project how the two days would end up feeling. There was excitement running through my body over the idea of skiing the mountain. I also understood my preparation was about as positive as I could have hoped. My home mountain of Stevens had closed a few weeks prior, meaning I hadn’t skied in about three weeks. Leaving seeds of doubt in the back of my mind, as we rolled into town. I was resting on the hope that skiing would click in quickly, the following day. We were blessed to be greeted with an ideal blue sky morning, on Saturday. The trend of magnificent weather would follow us into Sunday, as well. As the first run was taken on Mammoth mountain, I could feel my familiar fluidity. The turns felt good and stable, without the questioning emotion of desiring another warm-up run. We moved quickly onto a more challenging chair. Lifting us high into the middle section of the Mammoth ski resort and off we ventured, exploring the terrain. The first day found us traversing the mountain from one side to the other, and back again. Under a cloudless blue sky, with a spring warmth, I was unaccustomed to feeling on the slopes. The amazing day of skiing lasted a few hours before my body met its fill point. A hardy meal ended the four hours on the slopes and we retired into a fun evening of events.
The weekend continued on the positive note established that first day. My body performed much better than anticipated. Allowing me to feel as though I wasn’t slowing down much of our weekend. The achievement of that goal to diligence I hadn’t found previously. I took on the challenge of preparing my body for the trip. For the first time, accepting the inevitability of my cerebral palsy impact. It would have been impossible to simply get into the car and go to Mammoth. Hoping everything would work out well with my coordination and stability. The idea has been attempted many times before, feeling like I could get by with simply rolling out of bed. But, those attempts have often ended in frustration that led me into angry emotions. Leading me to feelings of outrage, which often culminated in some kind of outburst. It was the last scenario I wanted to play out on this trip. Understanding and accepting the disadvantage cerebral palsy places on my physical life, I wanted to prepare better than I have previously. The process of preparation taught me a couple important lessons. My disability shouldn’t cause me to back out of the amazing opportunities I have been blessed with. But, the acceptance of my cerebral palsy and its challenges are crucial. Because, it allows me to grow by challenging me to put in the extra work, allowing for my experiences to be enjoyed. In many ways, the trip to Mammoth was a life changing experience.