Aleyeska Resort, Alaska
In summary, I have never had a longer period of crashes and mistakes in a series of races than this round of the paralympics. In my last race, the super-G, I caught unexpected air at the last gate which caused me to fly sideways and upside down over the finish line at about 50-60 mph. The resulting crash caused me to lose my ski and receive a collective (AAAHHHH!!!) from the crowd, followed a few minutes later by a big cheer when I got back up again. Due to this crash and one the day before in the downhill, I was too beat up to race the super-combined on the last day. My results for slalom and giant slalom were less than spectacular and not worth noting here. Historically I have been very good at racing and enjoyed really good results on a more or less consistent basis. To not do well for a long time is unusual for me. After a great amount of though, however, I have figured out why I was unable to achieve success.
First, at the beginning of the season I changed to new monoski built by a Japanese company called Nissin. This monoski is really good at using the whole ski and arcs turns like nothing else out there. Unfortunately it only skis correctly when one’s weight is in the back seat and one gives oneself tons of room at the top of each turn to make the turn. I had not figured out either of these things by the time the Paralympics came around, and thus suffered the consequences. I also had very little training in hard, icy, bumpy snow, which was the kind we had at the Paralympics, and thus was quite unprepared.
With all that said I did end up having a good time. It was great to see tons of people from all over the world speaking all sorts of languages. The ceremonies for everything were really well done, with the exception of the Inuit throat singing done by a one Tanya Taguk in the closing ceremonies. Inuit throat sining is not to be confused with Tuvan throat singing, which I find quite enjoyable and melodious. Tanya’s singing was more akin to a theatrical asthma attack with which there is no medicine to ease the discomfort. I actually sat through a two hour concert/dance performance of Tanya Taguk last spring in Vancouver, two hours of which I can never get back.
Anyway, on to the pictures.
My teammate, George, practicing his cheering pose.
CDY bathing in his fan-mail. I had no fan mail. My side of the room was lonely and bare.
Me with the Paralympic mascot (Sumi?).
We had this welcome ceremony for just the US team at the athlete village and after the ceremony I found the hottest girls I could and took a picture with them. They were all involved in the ceremonies in some way, but the girl to my left is Laura Vandervoort, who also stars in the TV show called “V”.
The athlete village at night.
Arly, one of the two Mexican skiers in the games.
The ski team, waiting to march into the stadium in Vancouver for the opening ceremonies. Ralph Lauren provided a lot of our uniform and in his infinite wisdom, thought it would be a great idea to have us dress up in a super heavy wool sweater with a really big turtle-neck, then put on a really warm down coat, then top it off with a really warm wool hat. We had to wear this get-up for several hours in 60 degree weather, when we would could have outlasted penguins in Antarctica.
My friend John came to visit and tour the athlete village, above which we both felt it necessary that he strike a gallant pose.
Overly enthusiastic fans at the closing ceremonies.
Pom-pom dancing kids that were required to dance as long as athletes were entering the closing ceremonies. Towards the end of the column they were getting less and less enthusiastic.
After the closing ceremonies I was mobbed by a group of girls from Hawaii who really wanted to meet a paralympian. Glad I could be of service.
Today we had our first downhill training run. The course starts at the top of the women’s Olympic downhill but has slightly more turns and not as much air time. The weather was horrible the whole day, with tons of snow and fog. After many course holds and waiting around at the start I ran my run at about 4 pm when the light was very flat. I very much enjoy being able to see the terrain I am skiing over at 60 mph but I had no such luxury. Luckily the track was very smooth but quite icy. There is a jump onto the finish pitch called ‘hot air’ which turned out to be tons of fun. I was about 1-2 feet off the ground and flew about 30 feet with my weight a bit too far forward, causing my to do a bit of a tip stand but I managed to land it.
The day turned out to be super long, with us getting back to the athlete village at about 5 pm. Chris Devlin-Young, my roommate, got a package jammed packed with fan mail from his sponsors so he has been opening them and reading them all aloud. He has already done about 20 and only has about 80 more to do. Thats all the excitement for today. Check back later
We have a day off to relax from traveling today. I have had a lot of time to check out the village today. There are many countries here, all with different and vibrantly colored uniforms. Many people I recognize from the alpine world cup circuit, but all the nordic teams are staying here too. Nordic skiing appears to be a big deal in eastern Europe because there are big teams from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Bulgaria. I even saw teams from Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Mongolia. My goal is to befriend one of the Mongolians and trade jackets with them, because how cool would it be to have a Mongolian Paralympic jacket?!
There really isn’t much going on here. I have traveled to the base of downhill and checked things out, but everything is still pretty quiet. The waste that is generated at the athlete village is staggering. Coca Cola and McDonalds are major sponsors of the food and drink here, so many things, including drinks, come in some sort of packaging and all of that has to be dealt with. Fortunately, everything so far has been recyclable, with the exception of the McDonald’s packaging.
It is super relaxing to be living here, though. Absolutely everything is taken care of for you so that all you need to think about is when you are getting food and when you are getting on the bus to go to the hill. I can get a massage whenever I want, too. I might just do that, actually.
Today we flew from Denver to Vancouver, Canada, then took a bus up to Whistler where all the Alpine events are being held. The travel experience was not too exciting.
This evening we got to the Whistler Athlete Village which is about 10 minutes down the road from the ski area. The village is really well built and resembles a small college campus. Every country has their own floor in one of the numerous residence halls and their are many lounges and public areas where you can find cafes, game rooms, workout facilities, entertainment plazas, movie theaters and even a multi-faith center if you need to get your meditation or bible study on. The dining hall is a massive permanent tent with tons of food options. It even has a full service McDonalds and McCafe if you feel like you want to “eat like an olympian.” If you don’t get that reference and think its rediculous, check out McDonald’s recent add campaign where they have olympic athletes eating at McDonalds, giving the impression that their food somehow enhances one’s performance.
The world cup races are finally over and now we get to focus on the bigger and better things, such as the paralympics. Today we drove down to a hotel in Denver where we spent most of the day getting our uniform for the paralympics. Never before have we gotten so much swag for any event. The two main sponsors of the US Paralympic team, Nike and Ralph Lauren, made sure we had enough cloths to wear something completely different, every day, for a month. Each one of us went around a big conference room and filled three huge duffel bags full of jackets, shirts, sweaters, shoes, socks, more jackets, scarves, gloves and hats. Ralph Lauren even gave us a style guide for those times when we are feeling totally overwhelmed and just can’t figure out how to pull off “that classic Ralph Lauren look.” Apparently, its all about how you mix, match, and layer.
After we got our uniform we got to sit through a three hour presentation about how to be a Paralympic Ambassador. The whole thing ended up being a lecture about how to not freak out and not be stupid at the games. Unfortunately it was presented to us as if we were little kids with ADD, so it was quite excruciating to sit through. One useful thing I did learn was that I am not allowed to post any pictures or videos of any paralympic venues, logos or ceremonies on my blog. Apparently “THE MAN” owns the entire experience, regardless of the athletes who make the whole thing possible, and “THE MAN” doesn’t want free publicity or anyone else to enjoy the experience unless they want to bend over and pay big bucks. With that said, my posting of pictures and video will be somewhat limited.
I have decided to do a bit of training before the paralympics. I chose to train with Challenge Aspen in Aspen, Colorado where I could get all the race training and freeskiing that I ever wanted. I have been able to get lots of runs on a downhill and super-g on the Tiehack side of Buttermilk mountain, which turned out to be a ton of fun and also happens to be the location of our world cup finals for this year. These speed races were actually part of the Rocky Mountain Masters series, so the competitors were in ages from 21 to 80’s. This was quite a mixture of people, as you can imagine. Some of them made it down the mountain in a minute and thirty seconds, others in over three minutes. Course inspection was highly entertaining because it seemed that every racer had an opinion about how the course was set, and made their opinion known to the course setter, who actually reset the course the way the racers wanted it! This could only ever happen with the masters category, as such input by racers to any other course setter in any other form of ski racing would be unthinkable. The course ended up running fine, but it was also quite do-able in its original form.
Besides training, the weather demanded that I do quite a bit of powder skiing. We had three days straight of ~12″ dumps, so I thought it prudent to ski each of those days. The snow was so deep that I would almost go under the snow every turn, then pop up out of it in each transition. I was using a 186 cm Volkl Gotama rockered pow ski, so I was able to porpoise out of the snow when it got really deep. The three days were easily the best powder days I have ever had. In no other form of skiing do I use more muscles to control my movements and it was great to rip down steep runs and not be hindered by gates telling me where to turn.
Skiing at Aspen Highlands, this was as close as we were to get, short of hiking, to Highlands bowl.
Me, coach Tim of Challenge Aspen, and my teammate, Chris Devlin-Young. Highlands Bowl is in the background.
A cool picture of Chris.
Tyler grew up in Franconia, New Hampshire where he developed a great appreciation of the outdoors, especially the mountains. Born without functional use of his legs, he has spent a lifetime adapting to a world filled with obstacles. Finding a passion for ski racing, Tyler competed for the United States for 15 seasons as a member of the US Paralympic Alpine Ski Team. During that time he traveled around the world, pushing the boundaries of adaptive skiing and racing. Tyler competed in the 2006 Torino, 2010 Vancouver, 2014 Sochi and 2018 PyeongChang Paralympic Games. Achieving many World Cup podiums and titles along the way, including winning the overall World Cup title in 2014, it would take his 4th trip to the Paralympics to earn two silver medals in giant slalom and slalom. Tyler also competed in the Winter X-Games Monoskier-X event, winning gold three times. During his career he found time to attend the University of New Hampshire and earn a dual degree in Geography and International Affairs. At the end of the 2018 season he retired from competitive skiing in order to pursue other career opportunities. Tyler also speaks to corporate and school groups about his experiences in life and competition, passing on lessons learned over a long and often arduous career.