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Thread: Young skier competes despite his disability

  1. #1
    Senior Member Max's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    Montreal,Province of Quebec, CANADA

    Young skier competes despite his disability

    Young skier competes despite his disability

    By Julie Marshall, Camera Staff Writer
    November 12, 2002

    As a kid, David Klingensmith remembers watching longingly as his dad headed for the slopes. David has cerebral palsy, a motor disorder affecting his nervous system. He cannot walk without the support of a cane, much less ski - or so he thought.

    "My dad was skiing," says David, now 17. "I wanted to try."

    In fourth grade, David got his wish. His parents enrolled him in the Eldora Special Recreation Program, a nonprofit with volunteer instructors who show people with physical and mental disabilities that they can traverse Colorado's snow-topped mountains on cross country or downhill skis. The program recently began offering lessons in snowboarding and snowshoeing as well.

    The Eldora program began in 1975 with just 10 students and a handful of instructors. Today, David is one of 150 students taught by a pool of 120 volunteers. David's peers - many of them kids and teenagers - face a wide range of disabilities, including lower-body amputations, blindness, epilepsy, spinal cord injuries, spina bifida and emotional disorders.

    Skiing is the optimal sport for the disabled because of adaptable equipment, such as skis designed to be worn while sitting down, says Michael Travis, board president of Eldora's program. Skiers pay $25 for a day of skiing, which includes equipment ( a bargain since a basic adaptive ski can cost $3,000), a lift ticket and one-on-one instruction.

    Parents love it, they say, because the program is in their back yard, located 21 miles west of Boulder.

    The ski program offers a long list of benefits for life, parents and volunteers say. David, a senior at Fairview High School, has noticed an increase in strength, especially in his arms and shoulders, as well as improved balance. His parents say their son, normally a very shy young man, has come out of his shell since learning to ski and interacting with instructors. Most important, David is having a blast, his dad, Scott, says.

    "I feel fortunate that we've found something we can share."

    When Eldora's program begins in January, David will join his dad every Saturday on a mono-ski. He will sit on a fiberglass, molded shell, mounted atop a single ski with outriggers - poles with tiny spring-loaded skis on the tips for balance. A mono-skier controls turns by leaning his or her upper body downhill and then twisting into the turn, David explains.

    David started out on a slower bi-ski - a seat mounted on two skis for greater balance. His instructor, Caron Newman, skied behind, attached to the ski by a tether to help her student navigate trees and other skiers.

    But David had a certain look that said he was ready to progress, Newman says.

    "I immediately saw a spirit, a look of freedom in this kid's eyes," says Newman, who has been a volunteer for Eldora's program for five years. She encouraged him to try the mono-ski, a smoother and faster ski, but one that is much tougher to control and keep upright.

    Soon David was whipping Newman around the slopes at the end of the tether. Last season, he competed in the Special Olympics regionals held at Eldora.

    It was an auspicious day, Newman recalls.

    The day of the race, David and his instructor tumbled off the lift, falling 10 feet. She broke her wrist. David shrugged it off and was determined to race.

    During the slalom event, David fell, and because he lacks the upper body strength to upright himself without help, he couldn't win. Assistance after a fall is automatic disqualification, Newman says.

    Just knowing he was good enough to compete was satisfying, David says.

    "I like to go fast."

    Volunteers say they love the opportunity to nurture a child's spirit. Travis, a ski instructor as well as board president of Eldora's program, recalls a student he once had who suffered from a brain injury.

    "This guy was a good skier before his accident," Travis says. The two spent the day shuffling back and forth on flat terrain; it was all the student could do.

    "I asked him, 'Are you enjoying this?'" Travis says. "And he answered, 'This is great.'

    He was just so happy to be back on the mountain."

    David's dad was so inspired by watching his son that he, too, is now a certified instructor for Eldora's program.

    "We're having fun, but it wasn't always fun," Scott says. "It's very hard work."

    In the beginning, David would come home barely able to raise his arms, sore from working his crutch-like outriggers, the young skier says.

    His parents never pushed. It was all David, they say.

    The next big challenge?

    "I want to be able to load myself on the lift," David says.

    David's mom, Courtney, is glad her son has a sport he can do well, and in some cases better, than other kids.

    "David doesn't consider himself any different," she says.

    But there are always reminders that he is. People stare, he says.

    "I get a lot of looks, a lot of times from people on the lift," David says, adding that it's no big deal.

    "I don't have time to think about it; I have to keep skiing."

    Today David skis without a tether.

    "He's a speed demon; he's fearless," his dad says.

    David agrees. His blue eyes sparkle as he thinks about how far he's come.

    "I can go faster than my dad."

    The Eldora Special Recreation Program will hold a volunteer orientation at 7 p.m., Nov. 19 and 20, at the Boulder Elks Lodge, located at 3975 28th St. Call (303) 258-1166 for details.

    Contact Julie Marshall at (303) 473-1305 or

    Copyright 2002, The Daily Camera. All Rights Reserved.,00.html

  2. #2
    Good story Max.

    I would encourage anyone with sci to try skiing. It's not that hard. This year I'm going to try cross-country.

    Any other lower level quads who've tried this?

    Onward and Upward!

  3. #3
    Senior Member mk99's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    toronto, canada
    Skiing & snowboarding were a big part of my life pre-sci. I was a ski instructor and was really into extreme snowboarding/skiing as well. (off trials, cliffs, deep powder, etc)

    I have absolutely NO desire to try disabled skiing. I think I would find it incredibly depressing and probably just start bawling... day to day life is not particularly depressing anymore but I think this would be just too much to handle.

    It's funny... for someone who was incredibly physically active I have no desire at all to do any disabled sports whatsoever. Just to be able to walk with cane(s) or even a walker would be more than enough for me. Riding a bicycle would be really cool too.

    I wonder if anyone here could share their experience with returning to a sport they loved. Did you find it was still great or just a huge slap in the face and such a harsh reminder of what you used to be and no longer are?

    please no flaming...

  4. #4
    re: mk.

    i hear ya bro. my injury was from a downhill skiing accident... freak accident no less due to poor trail upkeep at this particular resort. it sucks; i'd been skiing since age 4 & had plenty of experience w/ almost every aspect of the sport.

    people try to be encouraging about still being able to ski. my response (usually in my head): "are you kidding me??" disabled skiing to me is like strapping a seat on a sled. there's just no substitute for the technical stuff pre-sci. now i'm not knocking the people who get into it, but it's just not the same.

    i'd do anything to resume my active lifestyle, but yeah it is kinda a slap in the face these days for me too. what makes it particularily hard is my experience with skiing, mtn biking, and a few other outdoor sports is that the advanced knowledge is still there... & when my friends get into some of that stuff i STILL know more than them but can't prove it, show them stuff, or join in...

    life from the sidelines is tough.

  5. #5
    JMU, Mike, I completely understand how you feel. As a former extreme mntn biker (24hrs of Moab, etc.), college hoops player and snowboarder / skier as well as runner (which I truly miss the most) I felt exactly the way you guys do. Hell, even coaching little league baseball with verbal coaching vs. physically demonstration is a major exercise in frustration control.

    However, I've started taking baby steps back into it. Skiing, for example, although never the same, is great in that I can enjoy it with my wife as a shared activity, offers the opportunity to be outdoors and offers a new challenge, something to achieve in terms of independence. Btw, its also a great workout - outriggers work your arms. And some of the monoskiers out there (former olympic athletes) are incredible to watch. It's also a helluva lot of fun. Like anything new it takes some getting used to. This will be my second season.

    Biking doesn't really appeal to me only for the simple reason that I've logged enough miles in my lifetime for three people.

    Basketball, if I had my hands, would be something to consider. Just being able to launch a three pointer with the familiar "swish" would probably still invoke a smile sitting down or standing up.

    Running, what I wouldn't give....This is the one that haunts me.

    All I can say is give it a try. You might surprise yourself and enjoy it. I did.

    Onward and Upward!

  6. #6
    Senior Member mk99's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    toronto, canada
    thanks to both of you.

    I don't mind swimming now (even though I was a lifeguard and did diving), I don't mind handbiking (even though I was also very much into mountain bikes)
    Same thing with lifting weights or just about any other activity. I would have no problem riding a motorcycle again either. It's the skiing that I cannot possibly imagine going back to.

    I was thinking about any possible way to use long leg braces & a walker with sleds on the front... at this point I think it's too difficult (t4 motor complete) but with some recovery it may be entirely possible. Skiing sitting down just ain't gonna happen for me. I think I'd really lose it.

  7. #7
    Senior Member nate007's Avatar
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    Apr 2002
    Winnipeg, manitoba, canada
    It might be the fact that you wouldn't be in the deep powder or off the trails like you were before that's stopping you. I've done some handcycling but it's not the same as being out in the middle of nowhere as opposed to the road and paths.

    Plus it was a lot easier to get onto the bike than the handcycle

  8. #8
    Originally posted by Chris:

    All I can say is give it a try. You might surprise yourself and enjoy it. I did.
    i agree wholeheartedly... i guess i'm just prideful and/or cynical about it... & 'disabled' sports seem to be stooping to a lower level... just my $.02.

    thanks for the encouragement though... you're right on, chris.

  9. #9
    I too was hurt in a skiing accident. I did't think I'd do it again until I saw the Paralympics in Salt Lake City last spring. The sitskiers were absolutely rippin', and when I saw that, there was no doubt I had to try it. I went to Snowbird last April and learned how to do it, and was amazed at how much I liked it. The feeling of carving a turn is remarkably similar, as are the mechanics.

    I'm planning another trip there the first week of December as I have business in Florida the following week, and I think I can engineer a layover.

    Snowbird Adaptive Sports has hired Muffy Davis as an instructor, who won three Silver medals in the 2002 games. She's a C7 quad from a downhill racing accident some years ago. They want to get me out with her when I get there. That'd rip for sure.

    - Bruce

  10. #10
    Senior Member
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    Jan 2002
    Originally posted by mkowalski99:

    I wonder if anyone here could share their experience with returning to a sport they loved. Did you find it was still great or just a huge slap in the face and such a harsh reminder of what you used to be and no longer are?

    please no flaming...
    I played tournament paintball for several years pre SCI and have played one touney since and play lots of recreational paintball now I still have a blast. Its all about getting out and having fun, just find a way to adapt to what you want to do. I am going to try skiing this winter and although I was not an exeptional skier I know it will be fun.

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