Ed, a retired former colleague of mine at the BLM, has a mid-week pass and was more than happy to take me up on a Thursday for my first day of the year. In Bend it’s pretty common for people to play hooky from work for part or all of a day to go skiing – lucky me!
I've skied with Oregon Adaptive Sports (OAS); a great program for people with disabilities, for 8 years and the gang is like my winter family that recharges me. In my time with OAS it has grown from an all volunteer program that literally drafted instructors out of the parking lot to an outstanding organization with professional leadership and well-trained volunteers.
Today I was with Ryan and Henry, both who I had ridden with last year, and a new volunteer named Mark. Ryan was my “bucket assist,” meaning he skied behind me, steering and braking when needed, but mostly acting as my back-up plan in case I lost control of the bi-ski. Henry and Mark were there to help get me onto the lift, keep other skiers from running into me, block traffic at intersections, and are good company.
The crew grabbed the new light blue, Dutch Bros. Coffee Co. bi-ski and transferred me out of my wheelchair and into the bucket seat. At the base of the hill I coached Ryan and Henry through the process of relaxing my left hand– through a thick leather mitten – enough to slide it over the grip of the outrigger (think a short arm crutch with a ski on the end), and then secure it with Velcro straps (see photos, including some from last year showing the entire ski with bucket assist). With me strapped into the bucket, feet secured, and outriggers and helmet on, we hit the slopes of Sunrise Lift.
The first run of the year is about the skier and bucket assist getting (re)acquainted and in sync with each other. Together we weigh more than 400 pounds and can rapidly generate speed, so communication, familiarity, and trust are critical – as well as these guys being strong and skilled skiers! The trust part is incredibly important because Ryan (and all my other bucketeers) really let me do most of the steering, but we both go down together, so it’s nice to have someone put their trust and safety in me rather than the other way around! (Some of the trust, no doubt, comes from the fact that Ryan and I are both wildland firefighters)
After several runs we headed back in for lunch. I had some equipment issues so we decided to call it a day. I had skied well, picking up right where I left off last year, and made a good team with Ryan. All in all, it was a great first day.
I had gone up to the mountain inspired by Chris Devlin-Young and fellow OAS skier Ravi Drugan, the gold and bronze medalists in the Mono Ski X at the recent X-Games. I’ve known Ravi for several years and it was fun to see the local boy do well. He done us proud!
In his post-race interview fifty three year old Devlin-Young thanked his wife for letting him get out and ”do crazy things,” his ski maker and his crew. He finished by saying “...it gives an opportunity for the world to see that people with disabilities can do some pretty amazing things and whether you start with a disability as a kid, or you’re later in years you can still get out and have a lot of fun.”
Well said Chris!