A three-day training camp is underway in Vermont's Mad River Valley that will result in the invitation of two athletes to compete in the U.S. Paralympic Alpine National Championships next month in New Hampshire.
Twelve athletes with spinal cord injuries are participating in the training camp this week at Sugarbush Resort. The camp was organized by the High Fives Foundation, with Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports.
"It's amazing," said participant Chris Slavin of Danvers, Massachusetts. "It's really great."
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Slavin had been a stand-out competitor on her monoski, following a severe spinal cord injury. But she suffered a fall in 2014 that caused another injury, and cost her nearly two years away from the sport she loves.
"I think if I had waited another season to ski, I might not have come back on," Slavin told necn. "So I'm really thankful they were able to provide this amazing opportunity."
The camp is working on skills including gate training, tuning lessons, and fundamentals coaching, with both on-and-off-snow training. Off-snow coaching includes equipment and mono-ski setup and video analysis, Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports said.
Chris Devlin-Young, the coach for the training camp, is a veteran of the U.S. Paralympic team, with four medals from Paralympic Games. He has used a wheelchair since a plane crash in the 1980s.
"It's 34 years now, and I still hate being in a wheelchair, but on the mountain, in a monoski, I'm kind of like king," Devlin-Young said. "It gives me this inner peace and inner confidence I can't get any place else."
Devlin-Young said he hopes to both impart knowledge of race techniques and boost confidence in the 12 training camp participants.
"These folks are elite-level athletes," said Maggie Burke of Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports. "It's about more than skiing, too. It's about camaraderie, it's about teamwork, it's about confidence-building."
Two standout participants in the camp will be selected to compete in the U.S. Paralympic Alpine National Championships. The races are scheduled for March 20 to March 24 at Loon Mountain in Lincoln, New Hampshire, and will feature slalom and giant slalom events, according to Loon's website.
"I'd love to be at nationals at Loon," Chris Slavin beamed.
With big goals like that motivating Slavin and her fellow athletes, they are proving ski racing can be for everybody.
For more information on Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, visit this website.