January 11, 2014
World Cup Race, Panorama, British Columbia

Ski races hardly ever turn out according to plan. If they did, everyone would win. So it always helps to try and create as much fun as possible amidst the chaos of unpredictability.

During a recent World Cup event, this pursuit of fun left me stuck between a pile of rocks and a pine tree in the back bowl of Panorama, B.C. It had snowed just enough to cancel the super-combined race we had scheduled for the day, so my teammate, Chris Devlin-Young and I decided to follow some coaches to a snow field where the powder was rumored to be deeper than anywhere else on the mountain.

After a lot of traversing through un-tracked powder I accidentally scraped over a pile of rocks I couldn’t see. In an effort to extract myself, I fell off the rocks and into a tree-well. After ten minutes and a lot of pushing and digging, I got myself out and onto the snowfield.

aspen_powderChris had chosen a slightly better line through the trees and rocks and got through unscathed.

The effort was worth it, though, as the snowfield had seemingly bottomless powder and the way down was easily one of the funnest runs I have had this season.

Chris, who coached me at Loon Mountain for several years before I made the national team, was the driving force to get me from recreational skier to World Cup competitor, and is one of the few people I trust to get themselves into and out of tricky skiing situations.

Creating fun on this trip has been of great importance. I am very well prepared for this season and my confidence in my abilities is high, but luck still plays a huge role in ski racing. Inserting elements of fun into this journey to the Sochi Paralympics keeps the seriousness of competition from becoming too overwhelming.

The following description of my races will make it clear how serious the competition can get.

Downhill was the first race at this location. I was feeling really good about it because it started off with a series of technical turns, which I do really well, with the last half being much straighter and faster. Unfortunately I don’t ski fast, straight courses very well because I don’t weight very much and I wasn’t able to ski the technical part precisely enough which ended my day in eighth place, a few seconds out of first. On Sunday, after the powder day, we were able to race a super-combined (one run each of downhill and slalom) and I had similar problems with the downhill portion. I redeemed myself in the slalom, however, by winning that portion handily. Unfortunately, the effort was only enough to out me in into fourth, an immensely infuriating position to be in.

On Monday we ran giant slalom and it started off great, only to end in more frustration. I won the first run by one hundredth of a second and there were about ten guys within a second of my time. I was feeling rally good for the second run and my mind thought I had the race wrapped up. Unfortunately, I ended up not skiing dangerously enough to remain on top, and I ended up fifth.

Tuesday was the super-G (faster and straighter than giant slalom, but a bit slower than downhill) and I was really excited for it because of its more technical nature compared to downhill. My excitement was to be short-lived, however. When I inspected the course it appeared to be technical enough for me to win, but when I ran it, the course turned out to be faster than the downhill. This deception happens on occasion but I still managed another fifth.

About Me: I learned to ski and race a Cannon Mountain, Loon Mountain, and Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. I happen to be missing both of my legs at the knee, and I ski using a device called a mono ski or sit ski. This device is much like the rear end of a mountain bike, where a metal frame moves up and down with the help of a shock absorber. I sit, strapped in on the top of the frame, with a single ski on the bottom in place of a wheel This mono ski allows me to ski just like someone standing up, but in a sitting position. I am currently trying to qualify for and hopefully compete in the Paralympics this year in Sochi, Russia. The Paralympics, for clarification, are the same as the Olympics, but for people with physical disabilities. Competition takes place in the same location as the Olympics, just a few weeks. later.

— This is the second in a series of articles I am writing for the Littleton Record newspaper.