Tyler talks about how he first got involved in adaptive ski programs, what he loves about skiing, and how being involved in Paralympic sport has given him so many opportunities.
The Winter 2010 issue of UNH Magazine has a feature story about the upcoming Winter Paralympics. Tyler is featured on the cover and in the story.
Additional feature about Tyler, read No Mountain Too High.
“Take advantage of everything the University has to offer. Study abroad anyone can do it. I think it’s essential to have a good grasp of what’s going on in the world. And it’s really fun”
Tyler Walker has been in the news several times. He’s been featured in Rolling Stone magazine and The Boston Globe. He has met with President George W. Bush. He has his own website www.tylerwalker.org if you’re curious). Why? He has competed in the X-Games, the World Cup, and the Paralympic Gaines. He has managed all of this as a UNH student in a wheelchair, and as if that’s not enough: he’ll graduate in four years this May with a degree in geography.
Tyler moved from Franconia, NH to Durham to begin his freshman year as a mechanical engineering major. At the last minute, he decided to rake his second semester off to ski. He had been a part of the United States Disabled Ski Team since high school and wanted to devote the time and energy he could only manage if he wasn’t taking classes. While on hiatus from school, he switched his major to political science. But when he took a class that summer with Alaisdar Drizdel, he was hooked on geography. “He pulled me right in,” Tyler says. “He made it so interesting. It was the first time I went to class because I enjoyed it, not because I had to go.” Professor Drizdel inspired Tyler so much that he became a geography major his junior year. “It’s not just maps – it’s culture, language, people, history, how things change over time,” Tyler says. “You’re just learning about the world.”
Tyler was living in Smith Hall ar that time and was very taken with the culture and diversity around him. Influenced by the many international studies majors the met in Smith, he decided to dual major in International Studies as well. It was a chance to fulfill the language competency, study abroad and explore the world that he was learning so much about. And if two majors were not enough, Tyler also declared minors in both political science and German.
Although Tyler knew only a little German, it didn’t hold him back from traveling to Lunenburg, Germany for a summer abroad program. “1 had never had that kind of challenge before,” Tyler says. “Learning how you tally and how you think – it was like being in preschool. learning how to talk again.” It was an intensive two month program and when ‘Tyler left, he felt comfortable with rise language. “I was just starting to understand what people were saying to me without having to ask theta to repeat themselves!” While in Germany, Tyler met a family from Qatar. The family was in Germany because their five year old son, Ghanem, was receiving medical treatments for the same disability that Tyler was born with. The family, especially Ghanem, was excited to meet Tyler. “He sees me as infinitely cool and interesting, which is overwhelming,” he says. The curiosity and interest was mutual, and over his winter break, Tyler traveled to Qatar at the request of the family. Tyler spent two weeks with the family, answering questions and teaching Ghanem about getting around in a wheelchair and taking care of himself. In Ghanem’s culture, disabilities are often hidden. “Tyler noticed that he received even more stares during his time in Qatar.
Tyler has continued to balance his education and his skiing career during his time at UNH. He rook time off both his freshman and sophomore years, and by his junior year, he knew he wanted to graduate in four years. He made the decision to take a year off from the ski team. “Skiing is great.” he says. “I can have a lot of influence there, but it’s very limited. If I ever injure some part of my body and 1 can’t ski, I have nothing else.” He takes summer classes and is taking five classes both semesters of his senior year so he can finish on time. Tyler still competes, but only in the National Races so he can stake time for his classes.
As if balancing that heavy load is nor enough, Tyler still makes time for Northeast Passage, a UNH based program that offers disability-related recreational adaptive sports to people throughout New England. Although ‘Tyler officially is taking time off from the ski team, he conditions multiple times a week with Tom Carr, the assistant director of Northeast Passage. When he graduates this May, there are many prospects waiting for Tyler. He’s going hack to Germany – Munich this time – to enjoy some more Alp skiing and learn even more about the language and culture. He sees himself at the Paralympics in 2010 in Vancouver. He knows graduate school is in his future at some point, too. He hopes to become more involved in the movement to get adaptive sports in Qatar and change the stigma against people with disabilities. Wherever he ends up, he knows he won’t stop learning. “When I’m done with my degree, I’m not going to be done with it,” he says. “This education is a doorway into marry other opportunities. I can take what I learned here and do anything I want.”
— from an article written by Elena Jacobs for Granite Sports magazine in the Fall 2003 issue
Two years ago (GSM, Summer 2001, pp. 26-27) we introduced you to an extraordinary young man who we believed was on his way to stardom in the skiing world. His name is Tyler Walker and he’s from Franconia, New Hampshire. At the time Tyler had just entered high school the previous autumn and, like fifteen year olds everywhere, was eagerly looking forward to getting his driver’s license the next year.
Although he had begun ski racing only the previous year Tyler was already winning or finishing in the top three in the races that season. That in itself was an impressive achievement, but as we said Tyler is a remarkable person. When he goes flying down a ski slope it is on a monoski. Tyler’s legs were amputated above the knees when he was just four years old.
As the 2001 season came to a close Tyler’s wins had qualified him as the National Junior Mens Champion in the National Alpine Disabled Races. His dream, he shyly confided to us, was to become a member of the U.S. Disabled Skiers Team and go to the Olympics in 2006. To be selected for the team would mean he would have to place as one of the top three skiers overall in the U.S. Ski Association sanctioned races, and to place in the top three in the Nationals.
This past February Tyler competed in the Columbia Crest Cup at Winter Park, Colorado, where he was the top finishing United States racer in the GS, second best mono-skier in the Slalom, and third best in the Super G.
In mid-March Tyler entered the Eastern Regional Disabled Alpine Ski Championships in Waterville Valley. He competed in the Open Men’s category against some of the best disabled alpine skiers in the country, including members of the U.S. Disabled Alpine Ski Team. Tyler won first place overall in the Super G, besting the all of the U.S. ski team and Paralympian medalists. He won second place in the sit-ski class on the GS and fourth in Slalom.
In Big Sky, Montana, at the end of March Tyler completed the last requirement to qualify for the U.S. Disabled Ski Team by skiing to third place overall in the Downhill, the first event of the U.S. National Disabled Alpine Championships. First and second places were taken by the 2002 Paralympic Downhill gold and silver medalists.
At the end of that week, Tyler was offered a place on the U.S. Disabled Ski Team, which he quickly accepted, just two weeks before his seventeenth birthday. Tyler Walker is making his dreams come true.
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.