I was not sure what to expect of my extended weekend in Crested Butte. Arriving feeling physically poor certainly did not help. But as I write this en route back to Boston, I can say with confidence that my time in Crested Butte and Colorado this season was a success, in terms of taking my three-tracking abilities to another level, reconnecting with old faces, meeting many new, wonderful ones, and being lifted by the incredible things the Adaptive Sports Center and its staff enable.
Part of my trepidations about the Crested Butte Ladies Adaptive weekend was how structured it seemed e.g. fixed instruction time, meal times, social activities etc. I generally like doing my own thing so this seemed quite restrictive. However, I found that I learned a tremendous amount being exposed to different instructors and a different program. The Adaptive Sports Center has a tremendous wealth of knowledge, yet also an open-mindedness to try new things. My instructor from my first day is actually a Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) Adaptive examiner, so she was definitely very knowledgeable and skilled at three-tracking. While the mechanics of skiing, whether it be on one or two skis, are the same, it still was nice to be with someone who could ski as well as I could on one ski. I have had the experience of instructors needing to ski with me on two skis to keep up. In the space of my first day, my ability to ski bumps of all sizes, in variable snow conditions (crud, ice, softer snow) and ski bumpy traverses (this is harder on my uphill ski side) improved considerably.
I saw that Crested Butte had two T-bars that serve double-black terrain. I was interested to see if I could ride a T-bar as a three-tracker since a lot of terrain in Europe, say, is only served by T-bars. Bryn, my instructor, had never ridden a T-bar as a three-tracker either, as most three-trackers are not skiing that advanced terrain. But, after a bit of strategizing we gave it a go. We had to take the High lift as the North Face lift was closed for an annual ski race. But, as you can see from the trail map below, one still needs to be able to ski advanced terrain to get back down. It was great to know that I could manage that as a three-tracker.
I sat on the left side of the T-bar, so that I could hold the middle of the T-bar with my right hand, have my right ski on the inside and have my left outrigger on the snow for balance. For my right outrigger, I kept the cuff around my right arm and balanced the outrigger on the top of my left hand. Bryn rode the T-bar more like a regular skier, skating on her left ski boot (she had a ski on her right leg). We congratulated ourselves on riding the T-bar without any incident! The next day, Tereza (another ASC volunteer/instructor) and I rode the North Face lift. Upon the recommendation of another instructor, I tried to ride the T-bar by myself. This did not work out as well. The lack of a counter-balance and the sudden jerks of the North Face lift had me fall within 10 feet of where I had loaded. Tereza and I found that it was easiest to the ride the T-bar with her having her ski on her left boot and sitting on the right side of the T-bar and we rode the T-bar quite a few times Sunday afternoon. This gives me confidence that, with the right partner (i.e. not a snowboarded and not someone who will knock me over) I will be able to ride T-bars all over the world again.
The best part about making it to the top of the T-bar lifts without incident was getting to ski the super fun double-black terrain at Crested Butte! My skill level as a three-tracker continued to improve leaps and bounds on Monday. I was able to build upon the skills I had picked up from the previous day and navigate rocky, thinly covered terrain, trees, glades, all in less than ideal snow conditions. Which is exactly what one (or at least I) needs to know how to do if they are going to be skiing advanced, off-piste terrain.
Tereza was terrific three-tracking company and it was very useful to see how she used her outriggers while carving on groomed terrain. It was incredibly useful (and fun) skiing with four-time Paralympian Sarah Will in the morning too. Monoskier tracks tend to be quite beautifully shaped and I was right on her tail (we both go fast). Later she said, you have the downhill mentality, which was nice to hear. Some women (and men) get nervous when they move “too” fast. When I move fast, things slow down. Time and senses dilate with the hyper awareness and focus.
I found that using my outriggers a lot in bumps puts a fair bit of pressure on the outside of the hand (little finger side of the palm) and my hands would involuntarily cramp when I was not skiing.
I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the High Fives Foundation for their generous donation that allowed me to attend the Ladies camp. I had not heard of this organization till just before this trip; I wish I had been aware of them earlier! They could have helped me tremendously in the months/years immediately after my accident. While I am sad that I did not have access/awareness of such a resource for myself then, I am very glad that such a resource exists for injured mountain sports athletes.