US Winter Paralympic race training with National Abilities Center (NAC)

Today, I had the opportunity to ski with alpine skiers trying to make the 2018 US Winter Paralympic team at Park City, the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics. It was a very informative experience as I had never even swung myself around race gates before. Today, the team was working on GS (Giant Slalom), so were out in their skinny, long GS skis. I found out the minimum height for GS skis for women, regardless of height and weight, is 183cm. And of course, it gets longer for Super-G and downhill events. This is a disadvantage for the smaller and shorter girls like myself, but why should I stop pursuing sports that I am not genetically pre-dispositioned for? :p

The prestigious and luxurious NAC double-wide trailer that houses lockers and equipment and changing space

The prestigious and luxurious NAC double-wide trailer that houses lockers and equipment and changing space

Ski resorts can be a dangerous place, I guess

Ski resorts can be a dangerous place, I guess

Erik, the Head Alpine coach, had given me information on what to expect today, but I still was not sure what that would entail. The first part of the session from 9am to 11.15am or so was spent warming up and little drills. This was followed by a 15 min or so bathroom break before heading out to the race course. At the race course, Erik and Shannon, a visiting coach from Australia, had us go down one by one while they videoed us and gave us verbal feedback on the course.

Racing down icy black runs is not exactly my idea of fun

Racing down icy black runs is not exactly my idea of fun

I was very conservative because I really did not want to cause further injury to the right leg. The overwhelming feeling I had was, I really like ripping it when I’m just skiing for fun because no one is making me do it. If I were to race, it would feel a lot like a job (which it would be to some degree), and that would make it no fun at all.

Then there is the risk of another injury. The video below shows a sit-skier with the Mexican team who was in the recent Sochi Winter Olympics. It turns out he had a bad crash and sustained an even higher level of spinal cord injury (T10-ish) than his previous one (L-level). He is holding back a lot in the video below because he is hurting, and also basically learning how to ski again with his reduced function. Why would he want to ski again? I guess people ask me the same thing with respect to climbing: Aren’t you worried about getting hurt again? It’s about living and feeling alive; yet, climbing and its risks (which, to me, are much lower) are acceptable to me, whereas hurtling down and icy slope to beat a clock/other people is not.

The day ended with brief video analysis. I was surprised that the video analysis was as quick as it was. But I suppose these guys see each other most every week day.

Another source of hesitancy, besides my personality and motivation, is the financial side of things. Being poor to freeze my ass off in lycra to ski down ice is not terribly appealing. Sure, you could piece together an existence, with grants, scholarships, jobs, and a low cost of living. But any other disposable income or saving for retirement? Forget about it. I am not ruling the possibility of racing entirely out, but I know for a fact I have a lot more fun free-skiing.

Well, this round of skiing is coming to an end. I am hoping to squeeze in a morning ski tomorrow before having to start my drive back to Cambridge, MA tomorrow afternoon. I can’t say I am too excited about three days of sitting on my ass all day long driving. While equipment and physical setbacks made me have to skip out on Colorado and New Mexico this time round, there is a chance I can make a dedicated CO ski trip between when I return from Chamonix and the start of my new job. Of course this depends on a number of factors, including my body. Such a trip would make me very happy as I would get to return to a place I love very much (Telluride) and see friends there.

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