On Sunday, February 23 Kyle and I and some of our Colorado friends and family will be joining the ALS Association at Eldora Mountain for their annual Ski to Defeat ALS event. ALS continues to cripple the bodies and take the lives of the skiers and athletes, and we’re here to fight back.
Skiing is an incredibly unique experience in the way it brings a family together and passes down from generation to generation. My dad has been skiing his entire life and it may be the biggest thing he has given to my brother and I. Since we could stand, we were put on planks and whizzed down the mountain between my dad’s legs. We grew older and performed pizzas and french fries. We followed dad through little trails through the trees and watched him send spread eagles off jumps and followed suit. Sometimes we’d wiped out and he’d clean up the yard sale. He took us down steeps, bumps, and woods, constantly pushing us and making us better and leaving no room for fear. We would chase after him and try to spray him when we stopped, but somehow he always got us back better.
Skiing is something he loves so passionately and has completely engrained in my brother and me. Being a skier is one of my largest identities and has had insurmountable influence on my life and passions. Sharing his love for the mountains has completely shaped my life and led me to where I am today. His passion for adventure, competitive drive, and quest for fun and laughter lives on through my brother and I as we race each other through the trees or in the backcountry.
Sadly, ALS has stolen dad’s ability to ski.
The seasons have been an interesting way to measure the impacts of this disease. The 2011-2012 season he was shredding hard. At this point I was always right on his tail, but he would still manage to beat everyone down the mountain. The highlight of that season was our backcountry venture to Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. With his skins on, he powered straight up that trail with ease and skied down a happy man. I recently completed the same venture, and let me tell you it was not easy. That season, dad was going full strength and ripping hard.
Last season, things were drastically different. The man who once ripped through trees, blasted through bumps, straightlined down groomers had slowed down tremendously. Gloves were traded for mittens since he couldn’t really move his fingers. He could no longer grip his poles or use his arms for balance. I had to buckle his boots, tie his laces, and zip his jacket. Slopes that he used to fly down became challenging. The legs that used to skin straight up mountains got tired after just a few runs.
But he was still out there pushing himself to the limits.
This season he has not hit the slopes. With the stem cell trial over his head he has to be extremely cautious. As we’ve already seen, any small imperfections can interrupt or completely halt the surgery, so he has to be careful to avoid injury. He is still walking, but with great difficulty. He’s already lost most upper body strength and movement, and now his legs are deteriorating quickly. He has a hard time balancing, walking, and standing up from a sitting position. It doesn’t look like he’ll be on two planks this season. But we’re hoping this stem cell surgery pulls through and he’s skinning up mountains once again. In the meantime, he’s still happy to belly up to the bar and enjoy an après ski brew, straw included.
If you’d like to join Kyle and I as we ski in honor of those who can’t, you can register here. http://web.alsa.org/site/TR?pg=team&fr_id=9860&team_id=270206