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Conquering a Mountain in a Sit-Ski (Video)

Several years ago I got to go to Colorado. When I told my friend Kerry I was coming to Boulder to speak, she said, “We’ve got to go skiing, Jen!”

Somehow I knew that was coming. Kerry had tried to get me to go downhill skiing for years.

With a deep exhale I said, “I’ll give anything a try once.”

Kerry was true to her word and set up the skiing adventure. We headed up to Keystone Ski Resort where the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) has adaptive ski equipment and instructors.

Layers for Warmth

Thankfully, BOEC is fully prepared for those of us with spinal cord injuries. On a previous adventure with snow-tubing, I’d become hypothermic and knew I needed to be cautious. (Read this article on How to Stay Warm).

After bundling up in layers of clothes, including two additional jackets, gloves, and a sleeping bag to cover my legs – all borrowed from BOEC – it was time to get in the sit-ski.

The Sit-Ski

There are several types of sit-skis for disabled skiers. With my higher level injury (C6-7 Asia A), I used a bi-ski with a bucket seat and two skis to provide additional stability. I also held outriggers in each hand with the assistance of gloves and Velcro straps to help me balance and lean into turns.

My Instructor

As a beginner, I was tethered to an able-bodied ski instructor. She taught me how to control the bi-ski and took over when needed.

The first thing I learned: there are no bunny slopes in Colorado. After getting on a ski lift, I dismounted the lift at the top of the mountain with assistance. (Watch the video below).

My instructor, Ella, began to guide me down the slope, explaining how to lean into the turns and use the outriggers for support. Holding two straps attached to the bi-ski, Ella would release or pull as necessary to help me turn the ski in the proper direction.

Although Kerry tells me I’m a natural, skiing isn’t exactly my cup of tea. The momentum I picked up going down the ski slopes was only controlled by Ella holding me back when necessary. For someone who likes to be in control, that was unnerving.

Despite the fear, a smile was glued to my face the entire time. I’m surprised it didn’t freeze there.

Watch the video of our adventure below.