This is my story of my first ski trip since I became a T8 complete para. The trip was kind of an important thing in my life, because when I got injured in a car accident when I was 18, I started shying away from all sports. Not to mention extreme sports. I took the trip when I was 23, which is three years ago, and it kinda got me started on my montage of stupid ways to risk my life. I'm considering writing to that Jackass show and asking them if they could use me as a regular. (No, not really, but I am a lot more athletic than I used to be and I think I have a lot more fun.)
I wasn't much of an athlete or a skier before I got injured. I probably went skiing with my family or friends maybe once a year or so. I enjoyed it and I was decent at it, but I wasn't a fanatic or anything. It's sort of funny that it took me becoming a para to start getting into sports.
It was my friend Chuck's idea to take the trip over winter break during our senior year. He didn't even ask me if I wanted to go, he just said to me one day: "Anthony dude, we're going skiing over winter break." Chuck and I first got to be buddies because I'm two years older than most people in our class due to the time I lost in rehab and shit, so I was able to buy alcohol two years sooner than everyone else. Something like that can make you very popular.
Before he even mentioned the trip to me, Chuck invited these two cute girls in our dorm, Melanie and Jess, who we sometimes hung out with. I knew Chuck was more interested in Jess, who is the blonde, although he wouldn't have been averse to hooking up with either of them. (Neither would I.) Between Melanie and Jess, I'd choose Melanie even though Jess is probably objectively prettier. I just think there's something really sexy about Melanie when she smiles at me. She also has a great ass. (Yea, I'm an ass man.) Melanie and I talk a decent amount and we've had dinner together in the cafeteria. Sometimes I get a vibe from her that maybe she's into me a little. Like I noticed she'd touch my arm a lot when we were talking, and she'd sit next to me when she had a choice of two seats. But because I'm me, I was always too chickenshit to act on it.
So you can imagine it was a big draw when Chuck told me the girls were coming. I didn't date much and I hadn't had a girlfriend since high school, so I was pretty excited about the prospect of possibly hooking up. Chuck gets a lot of action and girls really like him, which is probably how he got them to come along in the first place.
"But what am I supposed to do all day?" I asked Chuck. "Hang around the lodge?"
Chuck looked at me like I was a fucking moron. "Um, you ski?"
"I'm not into the whole crip sports thing," I tried to explain. Back then, I thought of disabled skiing as something where you were just pretending to ski, but you weren't actually doing anything. In retrospect, that was really ignorant.
Chuck then told me how he had purposely picked this lodge because it had adaptive skiing and they gave beginners' lessons. The more he talked about it, the more it sounded like it wasn't such a bad idea, especially the part involving the girls coming along. Finally I agreed to go.
I was a little obsessive about deciding what to bring with me on the trip. Since I can't feel my legs at all, I didn't want to risk them getting too cold and possibly frostbitten. I heard about heated boots, but those seemed like they might get too hot and burn me, and I wouldn't be able to feel that either. I've got the skinny ass, bony legs with lousy circulation and I've always been a little afraid I might end of losing one of them eventually. Anyhow, I finally opted for these long underwear and loose warm-up pants. Chuck told me that they would have helmets I could use, but I did buy myself a pair of goggles to wear to protect my face.
OK, so for me, taking a six hour or longer drive to a ski lodge is sort of a big deal in terms of my bladder. Usually I use an intermittent catheter, but I sure as hell didn't want to have an accident in Chuck's car, so I decided to use indwelling catheters for the whole trip, including while I was skiing, when it would be even harder to get to a bathroom. Indwelling caths are good sometimes because I can just put it in and not have to worry about an accident... except for crapping my pants, I guess, but that doesn't ever happen to me because I'm really good about my bowel regimen and careful about what I eat. The only problem that came up was that the legbag didn't fit under my long underwear, so I wound up cutting a hole in the underwear for the catheter to come out. It was a ghetto solution and I wasn't sure if that made the underwear not as effective, but I didn't have much of a choice.
We left mid-day, figuring we'd arrive in the evening and get in a full day of skiing the next day. When the girls showed up with their luggage, they both looked so hot, I felt really nervous about taking a whole big trip with them. Being honest with myself, they were both way out of my league. Melanie had on these tight little pants and I could see everything. Back before I had my SCI, I probably would have given myself away with a huge hard-on, but that doesn't happen to me anymore from just a look. Good thing, because I was already uncomfortable enough.
The girls were nice to me though. Melanie especially talked to me while Chuck was loading up the car. "Anthony, do you ski?" she asked me.
"Not really," I admitted. "But I'd like to learn how."
I rode shotgun in the car while the girls stayed in the back. We listened to various radio stations through the trip. We talked a little, although mostly about skiing. Jess and Chuck were very good skiers. Melanie said she was OK but not that good. I was going to be the only one on the pathetic bunny slopes though.
We got to the lodge much much later and that was when I got my first piece of shitty luck. There had just been a big snow and they hadn't completely cleared away the entrance to the lodge. Great, right? Being in a wheelchair sucks when there's a lot of snow around and there was a lot of snow around. There was a whole big discussion about how to get me into the lodge. Finally, we decided Chuck would carry me piggyback and one of the bellhops would carry my chair separately. Usually I try not to mind when something like that happens, but it's not exactly what you want to do in front of a couple of girls you're trying to impress.
Inside the lodge was better though. Apparently, they got a lot of guests with special needs, so everything was accessible. Except of course for the entrance, but they promised me everything would be cleared away by the morning. It was late and we had already eaten dinner on the road, so we decided to turn in.
The next morning, Chuck and I woke up earlier than the girls because he was going to help me get to the instructor for adaptive skiing. I wasn't that surprised to see that the entrance was only partially cleared away in the morning, but I was able to stay in my chair and I just needed Chuck's help to push me over a few icy spots.
We found the instructor Chuck had booked the lesson with. His name was Stan and he was able-bodied, but he told me he had been teaching adaptive skiing for many years. Initially I was put off that the instructor was AB, but he really seemed to know what he was talking about, which put me at ease. The first thing he did was to find me a helmet.
As I was adjusting my helmet, Stan explained to me the different kind of skis that I might be able to use. "What's your level of paralysis?" he asked me.
I said, "I'm T8."
"So you have full arm strength?"
Stan said that with my level, I could use either the mono-ski or the bi-ski. The difference between the two was that the mono-ski had one ski and the bi-ski had two. I guess that seems sorta obvious now, huh? The mono-ski makes it a little harder to balance because you just have the one ski, but apparently if you are serious about skiing, the mono-ski is the way to go. There was also the sit-ski, which sounded more like a sled where my legs would get strapped down.
I decided that hey I'm up for a challenge, so I went with the mono-ski. I figured I didn't come all this way to wuss out now, right?
Stan got out a mono-ski for me to use. Right away I got a little scared because it looked hard to balance. The ski didn't seem any wider than a normal ski, but there was just one. It had a little bucket seat and a place to put my legs. "You gunna need help with the transfer, Anthony?" Stan asked me. I said nope, but I did wind up needing his help, at least for him to hold the mono-ski for me so it didn't tip over. He took my wheelchair to a place where I could get it later.
There were about a million straps in the mono-ski, which I guess is a good thing. Stan adjusted it so my legs fit neatly in the footrest, then there was a strap just below my knees, one that went across my thighs, one across my lap, and one across the lower part of my chest. My legs were really really secured. I couldn't have fallen out of that thing if I tried. That said, I felt like I could really easily tip over and fall on my side while inside the ski.
Also, I couldn't do much in terms of moving on my own. The thing should have had wheels or something. That's when Stan gave me the outriggers, which looked like forearm crutches with short ski tips attached to the ends. I fit them over my jacket and then I was able to slide forward. "Cool," I said. I followed him outside, moving on my own except when he had to help lift me down this one step.
"You ready, Anthony?" Stan said.
If by ready, he meant that I was scared off my ass, then I was really ready. Part of me wanted to just say to forget the whole thing, except right then Melanie and Jess walked by on their skis, both of them looking really fucking sexy. At first I felt a little weird that I was in the mono-ski and I was afraid I looked too gimpy. But then Melanie gave me a big hello. "Oh my god Anthony, that is so cool!" she said.
I was surprised by her reaction and really pleased. "Yea, it's pretty neat," I said.
"We'll see you up on the slopes," and Melanie winked at me. I watched her walk away and I noticed she turned back to give me one last look. I took that as a good sign.
So after that, I definitely couldn't back down. Later on when Melanie asked me how skiing went, I couldn't say, oh yea I chickened out before even getting on the lift. I didn't think she'd be tearing her clothes off for me after that.
The next challenge was getting me on the damn ski lift. Stan explained to me the way I was supposed to do it: support myself on the outriggers and push myself up onto the lift. That sounded good in theory, but in practice, well I fell on my ass. It was fucking lame. I missed the chair and fell on the snow, which was great because I couldn't get myself back up. Stan and some other employee had to come over to lift me back into an upright position.
There was a line behind me and I could tell everyone was all pissed off they had to wait for me to figure out how to get on the lift. I really wanted to do it myself, but finally I just said fuck it and asked Stan to help me.
It kinda sucked being on the bunny slope again. It's embarrassing to be 23 years old and on a slope with a bunch of kiddies. And all their parents were looking at me on the mono-ski and I could tell they felt sorry for me. I hate that.
But you know, it wound up being a really fun time. Stan taught me a lot about how to balance, which was a lot easier when skiing than while just moving around slowly. It's sorta like how on a bike, you balance a lot easier when you're riding fast. Stan also taught me how to fall the right way, which was important because I fell a lot that day. The best way to fall, for anyone wondering, is to tuck the outriggers into your sides and just let the mono-ski stop on its own, instead of trying to stop it with the outriggers.
It was a really good feeling for me to be going down the hill, the wind hitting me in the face, just like everyone else. It was definitely a big rush. I vowed I was going to do this a lot more often from now on.
I stayed out skiing all day, then when I got back to the lodge I was very glad to see that the paths were now completely cleared so I didn't have any trouble with my wheelchair. Chuck hadn't gotten back yet, but the girls were hanging out in the lounge having hot cocoa. I came over to join them and Melanie insisted on making me some hot cocoa. She had changed these tight jeans and she looked really hot. I was probably staring at her. Naturally, I was still wearing my dumb warm-up pants with the long underwear underneath.
"I totally wiped out," Melanie said to me.
"Isn't wiping out what you do when you surf?" Jess said.
Melanie stuck out her tongue at Jess then gave me another big smile. "So how did you make out, Anthony?"
I said: "Pretty good. I think I'm going to go skiing again."
We talked for a little while then Chuck got back and he suggested we all have dinner together in the dining area. Chuck and I went back up to our room to change. I just wanted to get the hell out of my long underwear. Chuck kept talking about how he thought Melanie was definitely into me and I said I thought Melanie and Jess were both into him. They had agreed to go on this trip before they even knew I was coming, and like I said, Melanie was kinda out of my league. But then Chuck said that Jess told him that Melanie said she thought I looked good in the mono-ski. So that was a pretty encouraging sign. But I didn't want to get my hopes up too much and get shot down.
We met the girls downstairs and they both looked really hot as usual, waiting for us at a table. They had even got the waiter to take away a chair for me in advance, which I thought was really considerate of them. I wondered whose idea that was.
I don't remember much of what we talked about during dinner, except I got the feeling that we were pairing off. Melanie was mostly talking to me and Jess was mostly talking to Chuck. The four of us finished off a bottle of wine too, which moved things along. Afterward, Chuck and Jess went upstairs to "watch TV" while me and Melanie stayed downstairs to talk more by the fireplace. There weren't many people downstairs, so it was nice and private.
"Are you just supposed to keep me busy while Chuck takes advantage of my roommate?" Melanie teased me.
"No way!" I said. "I'm really having a good time talking to you."
"Well, I'm having a good time talking to you too."
We talked more, mostly about dumb crap like school. Melanie was an art major and she was talking to me about this class she was taking, although I didn't understand most of what she was talking about because I don't know shit about art. All I could think about was how cute she looked and wondering what she would do if I kissed her, if she would freak out. I was too scared to do it. I've misread girls before and I didn't want her thinking something like, Yuck, the wheelchair guy is hitting on me. Then all of sudden, Melanie said: "I'm having a really good time with you, Anthony." Then she kissed me on the cheek. I was very surprised, but not so surprised that I didn't kiss her back.
All that wound up happening that night was that we kissed for a while. Stuff like that doesn't happen to me much though, so it was pretty cool. Part of me wanted to invite Melanie upstairs and take the room that Chuck and Jess weren't in, but I was nervous about a lot of different things. I was still sort of anxious about what my body might do in a new situation, like I didn't want to have an accident while we were having sex or lose my erection right away. Or not be able to get hard at all. I don't really have much sensation down there and I don't get hard anymore just from thinking about things, but I can ejaculate sometimes and I thought I could have sex, although I wasn't sure. (I have, by the way, had sex since then and it's worked fine, thank you.) Also, I still had the catheter in and I didn't want her to see that. I came up with so many bad scenarios in my head that I completely psyched myself out of wanting to fool around with Melanie, even though I could tell she wanted to. But the thing is, people think that the only thing about being a para is not being able to walk, but there's really a lot more going on that can be a problem.
Anyway, we stayed at the lodge for a total of three days of skiing. The first two days I stuck to the bunny slope, but the third day I was a little braver and went on to a more advanced slope. I thought I did fairly well. One thing I was really proud of was that I learned how to get on the ski lift by myself without falling. Go me.
The four of us sorta coupled off during the trip. I would mostly spend time with Melanie and Chuck was mostly with Jess. On the ride home, Melanie and I took the back seat together and Jess rode up front with Chuck. Melanie and I were nowhere near as physical as Chuck and Jess, but that was what I was comfortable with at that point. I felt like I wasn't quite ready to let her see the more "down and dirty" aspects of being a paraplegic. We dated for a short time after that, but we broke up on good terms because like I said, I wasn't really ready for anything more serious than that. I think it was a good experience for both of us.
I have done some crazy shit since that trip. Now when someone says, "Oh, there isn't any adaptive [fill in the blank]" that is a challenge for me to go out and do it. I don't ski much just because I don't like the cold, but I go surfing, mountain-climbing, and I've been bungee jumping. It's funny I do all these things now, because I never would have done something like that before I was a para.
My new goal is to go skydiving. I've been looking into this and I'm very excited about it. My parents aren't too thrilled about it, but fuck that. I'm only 26 and I feel like there's a lot of stuff I want to do before I get too old, so I'm doing it all. Wish me luck.
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