Disability 101: Monoski camp: A time to be free
March 1, 2009
There’s a pilgrimage every February to Breckenridge. Every February, Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center sponsors monoski camp. Those of us who can no longer ski standing on two legs, but instead do so sitting over one ski, gather together in Breckenridge for a ski vacation.
Many of us return time and time again, year after year, eager to gather together once more to hit the slopes. We renew our friendships every February on the mountain and in Griffith Lodge. Some of us are new and are quickly welcomed into the fold. At last they have found us.
The week of monoski camp is the best week of my year. It is renewing, refreshing, reinvigorating, and recharging. No matter how rough the previous year has been, monoski camp makes me whole again.
How can the four days of monoski camp, with a bunch of folks who use wheelchairs and crutches, be so important to me?
Because disability disappears. It becomes a non-issue.
We are there to ski and to laugh, to fly down the mountain and to enjoy each others company.
The wheelchairs and the crutches that follow us wherever we go fade into the background. They don’t matter anymore.
We are not limited by our equipment; we are empowered by it.
We become normal. We become average. Within our circle, we are just ourselves. No one is staring at our chairs and crutches making sympathetic expressions of pity. No one is expecting us to be superheroes, overcoming all of our many obstacles for the betterment of mankind.
We are no longer stereotypes, examples, cases, objects for study, “special,” an inspiration, or opportunities for advocacy.
We are just us. We are the mom of a 3-year-old, the soccer dad, the businessman, the brand-new teacher, the guy with the funny accent from Scotland, the pool player, the Southerner, the great omelette maker, the joke teller, the photographer, the writer, the traveler, the last guy up in the morning, and the first guy to bed at night.
We are skiers. We gather on the mountain to fly as fast as we can down the steepest slope, to perfect our carved turns, to improve our skills to the next level, to learn, and to master the Ballet Hill. We push ourselves a little bit harder, a little bit farther, always seeking to get a little bit better and a little bit faster. We accept the challenge and take a risk. For what is life without a few risks?
We are storytellers. We laugh at ourselves as we tell each other about the time we missed the lip, the edge, the crack, and went flying out of our wheelchairs much to the horror of the unsuspecting able-bodied folks. We tell stories about the times we’ve gone down escalators in our chairs with confused security guards providing chase. We extol the many fine virtues of duct tape when used to adapt our monoskis and fix our glasses after a face plant.
We kid each other, harass each other, and cheer for each other.
Late at night our voices and our laughter echo through Griffith Lodge, but the morning brings a great rush to eat breakfast and get to the slope for fresh tracks.
Thank you, my friends, for sharing the mountain and good times. See you next year.
And thank you to Jeff and Gene, Quintin, Sarah, Matt, all the instructors, all the interns, and all the volunteers. You give us far more than you will ever realize.
Sandy Lahmann, a previous Frisco resident now temporarily lost on the Front Range, can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.