As we approach February 5, the anniversary of my snowboarding crash, I'm thinking about my life before my accident, my life after, and everything in between. Looking back at these past 11 years paralysis and life in a wheelchair, I've learned so much and I'm so grateful for those moments in time that set my life on this course. One of those pivoting moments for me being the day I chose to get back on the slopes again...this time on a monoski.
I remember driving up Big Cottonwood Canyon for the first time exactly one year after my crash and being surrounded by tall, amazing trees and a mountain range all covered with snow--beautiful, white, fluffy snow. It was like coming home for the first time after being away for so long. A mix of emotions flowed in--sadness, anxiety, and excitement as I thought of my crash and how far I had come to get to that very moment. Sadness from losing that very simple and important ability to walk and all the challenges and changes that came after. Anxiety at the thought of trying to fight gravity while strapped into a bucket seat over one ski--a crash seemed imminent. The excitement of trying something new--something I can do, something I can get good at, something I can love just like I loved snowboarding.
As AJ and I pulled up to Snowbird Ski Resort, I took a deep breath and headed up to the office for Wasatch Adaptive Sports (WAS), the nonprofit I was beginning this new adventure with. I was introduced to my instructor, Peter, and a volunteer, Dave, who seemed like the happiest, jolliest man I had ever met in a ski suit. And then, there she was, the yellow Yeti, one of the smallest monoskis they had, and what do ya know--she fit me just right. It was honestly bittersweet to not strap on my snow boots, but instead to be strapped into something much bigger...a monoski.
We got on the baby ski lift and went up to the baby hill. Suddenly, it was real--as real as the moment you're about to jump out of a plane real. There was no turning back now. Despite the cold and snow coming down on us, the instructors put me at ease and patiently taught me the basics of the monoski, amidst picking me up as I fell each time I didn’t start my turns quick enough. They were super fun and so encouraging. I was enjoying every moment of breathing in the fresh winter air and flying freely down the mountains again. And then crash, and a few more crashes after that. I know I wasn't graceful at all, but it felt really incredible to be able to move my body in ways I didn't think I could still move. From that lesson, I was hooked and I'm still hooked. If I could, I would spend all my days skiing. There’s no greater feeling than flying down that mountain. It brought back the freedom and exhilaration I had missed for so long.
Ski lessons with Peter are some of the most amazing and uplifting experiences.
That crash put my life on a totally different course than I ever imagined for myself. Getting back up on the slopes seemed a little risky and made some people wonder if I had lost my mind with the crash to even think about doing it again. Sometimes, the challenges seem so overwhelming that we don't know what to do or even if we can move on, but we must be brave and keep on trying one day at a time for good things are coming. It's doing these things like getting back on the slopes, little by little, day by day that show us that we embody great strength inside and we can do hard things. Not all was lost with my legs, and even though the snowboarding part of me was gone, this new monoskiing me is still capable, strong, evolving, and more refined. I learned to never let the fear of crashing keep me from getting on the slopes because the joy of the ride is so, so worthwhile. I'm grateful for those moments that I was brave enough to get back on the slopes. Because of it, I realized firsthand that “The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all” (shout out to my girl, Mulan!). We are more resilient than we think and we are better because we keep on getting back on the slopes again. And, since getting on the slopes again, my life has gotten 10x more exciting!
My husband and I are incredibly grateful we have had this opportunity to do sports with WAS all of these years. I know with surety that staying active makes me so much happier and excited about life as I continue to I challenge myself and thrive. Because of WAS, I love winter again. No longer was snow just the stuff that freezes up my wheels and hands. It became a symbol of hope anew, adventure, and peace. I’m so grateful for this wonderful program that enriches so many lives by boosting up confidence and independence. I love helping people enjoy adaptive sports, and realize for themselves that despite the challenges life throws at us, the possibilities of happiness are endless. No matter who you are, or what circumstances you are in, this life is to be enjoyed, so we must get back up on the slopes and live!
I couldn't finish this post without thanking my greatest supporter AJ, who is always up for the adventure and picks me up when I biff it in the snow. I love you!
A.J. and I hope that we’ll be able to share our love of winter with our children and build wonderful memories together. I foresee many slopes to shred in our future.
The first step is the scariest, but it'll take you on your next adventure. So go on, be brave, take that first step! Live a life you're proud of!
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