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Lessons Ive Learned From An Adaptive Skier

This blog comes to CSCUSA from Kristen Lummis, editor and founder of

Ski resorts look different when viewed through someone elses eyes.

Last month, I joined two friends, Betsy and Uschi, for two days of skiing at Purgatory (a.k.a. Durango Mountain Resort). Betsy is a long-time Purgatory skier who knows the mountain inside and out. Uschi is an accomplished adaptive monoskier and instructor.



Skiing with these two women, I saw two different sides of Purgatory. Betsy views the mountain through a lens of affection and memory. Purgatory is very special to her family and we could not have found a better guide.

Uschi views resorts through the lens of adaptive skiing and looking at a resort from her perspective is enlightening. While I wont speak (or write) for her, heres what I learned from Uschi as we explored Purgatory.

I think its good advice for all skiers and riders visiting a new mountain.



1. Plan Ahead. Find out where to park, where to buy tickets and get oriented before arriving at the mountain. For adaptive skiers, this is especially important. Most resorts have an adaptive skiing program that welcomes visitors with open arms. This was certainly true at Durango, where Ann Marie Meighan, the program director for the Adaptive Sports Association (ASA) greeted Uschi, got us oriented and, most importantly, set her up with discounted lift tickets.

Uschi is an independent skier, so with me as her buddy, and Betsy as our guide, we didnt need a coach or lesson. If you do, plan ahead and schedule a ski buddy or coach in advance.

2. Smile and Speak Up. When Uschi and I ski at her home mountains of Powderhorn or Crested Butte, everyone knows her. The lifties greet her and usually remember her chairlift instructions. They also know to step on the back of her ski and help raise her bucket to its lift boarding height.

In Durango, no one knew her. The main lift at the base is a 6 pack with gates. These gates are impossible for a monoskier. To put it lightly, trying to coordinate all of us onto the same chair was a bit confusing.

By day two, Uschi had taken over, telling not only the lifties what she needs (always with a smile and a genuine thank you), but directing us as well. Soon, all of us, lifties and girlfriends, knew the drill.



3. Scope Out The Terrain. Long traverses, run outs and flat areas are a bummer for a monoskier. While building up speed isnt a problem, its exhausting pushing oneself up an incline with arms and outrigger poles. Lift 3 at Purgatory serves some really fun terrain (most notably Dead Spike, a long run interspersing fun moguls and with smooth grooming), but its no fun when it takes an extra five minutes of effort to get back in line. Lift 8, had no such problem, so thats where we did most of our skiing.

Likewise, while Uschi rips through the moguls, by afternoon, shes ready to stick to groomers. Lifts that serve a combination of terrain, with mogul and groomed runs side-by-side are the bomb.

4. Practice Makes Perfect. Of course it does. Yet while we all know that, most of us rarely take lessons or work on our skills. Ive known Uschi for 9 years. In that time, she has worked diligently to improve her skiing, to the point that she is now comfortable in moguls of all sizes, powder and on steep, icy terrain. Ive worked really hard at my skiing, she explains. Im proud of where Ive gotten. Her next challenge? A big-mountain clinic at Crested Butte.



5. Welcome Strangers. Be prepared for other skiers and riders to stop and chat. Most people are really excited to see adaptive skiers on the slopes and theyll come over with compliments and questions.

While most people are familiar with adaptive skiing, sometimes folks are simply clueless. A man in Crested Butte once asked Uschi, Is that a hard way to ski? Id like to try it sometime. Uschi smiled, told him it takes lots of practice and we moved on.

Were still laughing about that guy.