Back on the Slopes; Adaptive Skiing

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on August 03, 2020 # Adaptive Sports

I am writing this during a heat wave in Southern California, the thought of Winter and snow is a little odd but comforting. I love snow it feels magical to me probably because I don’t live where snow falls and do not have to deal with the negative side of it. I love to ski, I tried snowboarding, but I could not make the switch over, partly because I simply did not want to waste a day on the slopes. I remember taking my oldest son Zack when he was 5 years old. I was planning to put him in a lesson but thought I’d try the bunny slope a couple times. First, we easily got on the lift and up to the top. I told him be prepared to fall this takes practice, try not to get frustrated or mad, be patient. I started going down the hill slow and turned around to help Zack so he can follow me, as I turned Zack shoots past me saying “Mom! how do I go faster?”Collie Family Skiing

No lessons needed apparently.

Zack was that kid that did everything better than average and made it look easy. He rode dirt bikes, skateboards, and surfed. He tried a couple team sports but did not have the patience to stick with just one sport. He was always onto the next thing. Being the oldest of 4 children, Zack loved to tease his younger siblings, joke around, and have fun. He had that I’m invincible attitude most 15-year old’s have. On Memorial Day 2010, Zack broke his neck while at the beach. He became a C-4 quadriplegic, changing his world in an instant forever.

Let’s fast forward 1-year post injury, after some of the shock, pain, surgeries, hospitals, physical therapy and house modifications were over. I heard of a place that sends people with disabilities on a ski trip to Colorado. The purpose of the trip is not just to be able to ski again using adaptable equipment but the whole travel experience which includes a flight, layover, hotel stay, navigating bowel and shower program in a temporary place. We put in an application to the Ross & Sue Ehrhardt Ski Scholarship Program and were approved to go that next winter. I was nervous, excited and willing to do whatever I needed, to have my 16-year-old son be able to get back on the slopes. I wanted Zack to see that he could still go and do things, this was also the motto of the adaptive sports place. We were in a group of about 10 people who met at the airport. We were the first people to enter the plane using the airlines mini isle chair. We navigated to our plane seat with the help of the airline crew. Our layover went smooth and soon we landed in Durango, Colorado where The Adaptative Sports Association (ASA) is located. A bus with a lift picked us up and off to check into our hotel. I also brought my 14-year-old son, so it was 3 of us. There was snow on the ground, and it felt so great to get out of our daily hectic routine. We were picked up the next morning and taken up the mountain. Our Snow gear was put on and Zack was matched up with an instructor depending on the type of disability. Zack was put into a bobsled type adaptable sled that had a handle on the back for the instructor. Two people went with him up to the ski lift and helped him on, one person on each side of him, he stayed in the sled the whole time. This made it so much easier not having to get in and out. For 3 days we skied Purgatory Mountain for those who are wondering.Adaptive skiing

We would meet up for dinner with our group, it was a 5-day trip in total. This was more than a vacation in fact work went into this, but it gave me and Zack the realization that even after a life changing injury like this we can still have fun, travel and go, see and do things! It was just what we needed at this time.

I realize with COVID-19 (2020) things are a bit upside down, I want to encourage you to look up possible trips for the future, use some of this down time to research wheelchair friendly places! It all starts with an idea. Keep in mind there are other adaptive sports available as well as seasonal sports, go start your search!

My life has had many parts, I could write a book just on that section but let's fast forward to when I married Adron Collie. Two weeks after turning 20 (yes, very young!) I had Zackery at age 22, Levi at 24, six years later Kaden, and 18 months after that daughter Laila, making me a busy mother of four. At that time, I also ran a photography business. The year Zack was injured I had a child in Preschool, Elementary, Jr. High and High School. Four kids in four schools! I thought I was so busy, just getting their drop off and pick up times correct was a challenge. I have to laugh now thinking back on that because little did I know my life was just about to turn upside down.