I spend a disproportionate amount of my time thinking about the mechanics of skiing (if you ask my friends, they would tell you I also spend a disproportionate amount of my mental energy thinking about the weather and memorizing arcane details of the trails I frequent, but that’s another story). One of the things about skiing that appeals to the latent nerd in me is how, once you reach a certain level in your skiing, very subtle tweaks to stance and pressure can make enormous differences in how your ski tracks on the snow.
Demo days are a real treat for me, because I get to feel the almost unbelievable differences between different brands and styles of skis on back-to-back runs — trying the same things and getting very different results. I love skis with a Germanic temperament: stolid, unflappable, fierce grip, but also head-strong and not always cooperative. My friend Mark prefers more Gaelic skis: light, quick, whippy, but sometimes easily thrown around. That we can detect the difference immediately transmitted through bindings and a rigid pair of ski boots, to our wool-encased toes and shins, and right on up the line, is pretty impressive.
All this was brought home to me on Saturday morning as I boarded the White Peak Quad following a sit-skier with the Wounded Warriors group. This young man managed, with no assistance, to push his way along through the line using his outriggers, shove forward in perfect time, and bump himself up and onto the chair which the operators barely slowed for his approach. I was feeling pretty good that morning, balancing (for the most part, anyway) way up high on my two legs, rolling from edge to edge on two skis, planting two poles in something like a rhythm. The Wounded Warrior was doing all this from a seated position, balancing on one fairly narrow slalom ski and moving just as well as your average “able-bodied” skier. A few minutes later, I saw him carving graceful arcs down Whitecaps, trailed by a coach but absolutely in the lead and in control.
Last weekend, the Wounded Warriors program brought 28 soldiers and their families to New Hampshire to enjoy outdoor recreation. The Warriors came from New Hampshire and Maine — but also from as far away as Kentucky, Nebraska, and Texas. They skied at Bretton Woods on Thursday, Loon on Friday, and at Waterville Valley on Saturday and Sunday. Fifteen of the soldiers and their loved ones elected to stay with us in Waterville, and all were hosted by community members. These young people brought the same enthusiasm and undaunted spirit to skiing that they brought to their jobs in the military and to their recovery after terrible injuries — amputations, traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s hard to think about the terrible sacrifices they’ve made, but easy to be proud of how they’ve reengaged with life.
The Waterville Valley Foundation, through the generosity of its donors, was proud to help fund a special breakfast for these brave men and women at T-Bars on Sunday morning. We look forward to seeing many of the soldiers and their families back again next year, and really appreciate all the effort that Kathy Chandler, Patty Furgal, and the team of volunteers at Waterville Valley’s Ability Plus program put in making this event a big success.