Connie Lawn is currently in Breckenridge, Colorado, attending the Wounded Warriors and Disabled Skiers Conference. She provides these latest notes direct from the slopes. You may also view her previous entries here.
December 6 and 7, 2007:
The snow is coming down in buckets, and the mountains are lapping up the glorious fresh powder. The hundreds of disabled sportsmen and women in this 20th annual convention are braving the cold, wind, blinding snow, and flat light to hurtle down the mountains. They are using snowboards, sit skis (both mono and bi), and a variety of newer contraptions which are developed constantly to help the adaptive and disabled skier and boarder. Many more are using their artificial limbs, as they become lighter and more flexible. But there are sitting and standing skiers without prostheses who are faster and better than anyone on the mountain.
Video provided by Connie Lawn and Charles Sneiderman.
Several hundred athletes stood in line, and took their turns in a variety of races. It was cold, but the race course was shielded from the wind. Their amount of toughness and competitiveness is amazing, but should not be surprising. Remember what they have gone through to get here. Most have suffered grievous injuries in the wars, but know they are lucky to be alive. Some were hurt in accidents, including ski racing in their earlier careers. After their recuperation, they returned to ski racing: many winning medals in Paralympics competitions. We are surrounded by brave, hardy, skilled people. But they are also kind, considerate, and caring about others, since they have gone through so much themselves.
One of the many things we learned while here is a website which list activities, employment, and other opportunities for the disabled. It is called www.disaboom.com, and might be of interest to all who are touched directly or indirectly by disabilities.
The Colorado and Utah ski areas are getting filled with snow, but we are delighted the same thing is happening back home in the Mid-Atlantic. We have been keeping an eager eye on our favorite local areas. By the end of this week, the majority of trails in all the major Western areas should be open, well in time for Christmas. The major concern now is the roads - will we be able to get down I-70 and to the airport to catch our plane? Many of the major passes, such as Loveland, are closed, and there are restrictions on the Eisenhower Tunnel. Chains are a must. Again, we are pleased to be traveling with buses and shuttles, and hope the drivers are skilled.
While we have grown comfortable on our favorite trails and lifts at Breckenridge (especially Bonanza), we are eager to visit as many of the Vail Resorts areas as possible. Most of their tickets will work for Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek, and Keystone. We had never tried Keystone before, and did so on Wednesday. Previous rave reviews are justified. We are absolutely in love with that area! Parts of it resemble the charm of the New England woods and rivers. Other parts, from the top, look like ski areas in Tahoe and New Zealand, with dramatic peaks all around, and a stunning lake in the distance. The gondola was open (unlike at Breck) and it was so nice to ride in warmth and comfort. We took a number of fast, smooth runs, and then had a delicious lunch at the top of the gondola. We both had the most tender, succulent Gyros and Greek salads outside of Greece. The people in this region know and appreciate good food, and the meals are splendid!
The only complaint I have about Keystone was walking a long distance from the gondola, across the town square to the bus stop. At the end of the day with the altitude, heavy boots, and painful blisters, I thought I would die. Keystone is an area where it is easier to drive and pull into the back parking lot near the gondola. But, there is a free Swan Mountain Express bus from Breckenridge, so we wanted to try it. There were trams to shuttle the people from the buses to the lifts earlier in the day, but having them run to closing time would be a major improvement. But, again, the skiing at Keystone is wonderful, and the views make it all worth while.
We hope we will get more good skiing in, but only Mother Nature can answer that.
When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.
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