Success on the slopes

Passing the skiing tradition along to the next generation has multiple benefits—especially when autism is a factor…

I went on my first ski trip during my freshman year of college. Even the nasty crash I had didn’t matter: I was hooked. From that winter on, all of my disposable income went towards ski trips.

When my husband Jack was newly transplanted to the west coast, I had the pleasure of teaching him to ski, and after we were married, I dreamed about the children we would have and the incredible ski trips we’d take as a family.

Delayed dreams

I spent Thanksgiving of 1996 skiing with my extended family. As I skied down my favorite run, I stopped to soak in the beauty of the Eastern Sierra—and had an inexplicable but overwhelming feeling that this ski trip would be my last for a while.

It turned out I was right. I was pregnant with my first son, Eric, the following winter, and again the next season with my second son, JP. Eric would be diagnosed with autism at the beginning of the ski season in 2000. It looked like our skiing days were over. Years passed quickly after Eric’s diagnosis. Early on, there was a frantic pace of transporting him to different schools, therapies, social programs and doctor’s appointments.

At age eight, Eric played on a baseball team for children with special needs. During the first game, it warmed my heart to see volunteers working so hard to give these kids an introduction into America’s favorite pastime. As I looked out on the baseball diamond, however, it struck me: baseball is slow paced—tough for kids with attention deficits— and good hand-eye coordination is needed to throw and catch the ball. Watching the kids swinging that big bat and trying to pass the midline was just painful. Most of them, including my son, were not having fun; I had to find something different for Eric.

Re-Thinking The Options

I can’t remember how I heard of Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra, but after I spoke to the program director, I knew I’d found Eric’s new sport. I planned a trip for us later that winter. Before we left San Diego for our ski weekend, we desensitized Eric to wearing ski clothing and a helmet. He showed up at the mountain that morning wearing more clothes than he’d ever worn. He met his ski instructor and went off to learn the basics.

Jack and I dropped off JP at ski school. It was thrilling to watch both of our boys learning to participate in the sport we both love so much. By the end of the morning, both Eric and JP could ski.

A Boost of Confidence

For the past five winters, we’ve taken Eric to Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra. He improves each year. In fact, he often skis faster than me. I take pleasure in knowing that my son has pushed me to the next level of skiing so I can keep up with him. It took eleven years for Jack and I to get back to skiing. It was worth the wait.

When I think of Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra, I get emotional. You see, they didn’t just teach Eric to ski. They taught him that he could participate in sports. They gave him confidence that he didn’t have before. But beyond that, these wonderful people gave me the skiing family I dreamt of all those years before. There aren’t enough “thank you’s” in the world to express my appreciation to these individuals.


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