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A life-changing trip to the slopes with a disabled daughter


Karin's family in Park City

Karin's family in Park City

By Karin Sheets (guest blogger)

I’ve always loved the snow, I think it’s genetic.  My parents were avid skiers and as a family we were on the slopes of any of the several ski areas in the Pacific Northwest every chance we got.  When I got married my husband, a surfer, got me to try snowboarding and I was hooked.  We spent every winter weekend in the mountains shredding it up.

When my oldest was born we knew we had a future snowboarder and had her on a board by the time she was 4.

My youngest daughter was born with a lot of complications.  Still undiagnosed, she is blind, non-verbal and unable to walk, in addition to needing heart surgery at 18 months.  She was a fragile child, and as much as I wanted her with us, I convinced myself that she was having a special day with grandma and that she would rather be there than on the mountain. But there was always a hole in my heart, a longing for her join us.

Last year I applied to be a Park City Mountain Resort Snowmama, which included a trip to Park City with my family so that I could write about our experiences for their web site.  I was so excited when I found out that I was selected. Park City Mountain Resort partners with the National Ability Center to provide skiing lessons for people of varying abilities, this was my chance to have my whole family on the mountain together.  Along with excitement about this prospect, I also had some fears about how this trip would work for my little one: how she would handle the altitude and cold, and if she’d actually like winter sports.  Maybe we’d end up spending the whole trip in the room – we’ve done that before.

Our first day on the mountain my daughter’s instructor got her set up with a bi-ski and we all headed out onto the lift.  It was a short run and I’m not sure if I breathed the whole way down, anxiously wondering how she was doing.  We got to the bottom of the run and I was greeted by a wide smile.  Game on!

The next run was longer, and the memory of it plays vividly in my head like I’m watching a movie.  The sun was shining and the sky was blue as I watched my youngest lead the way down the mountain, followed by her sister, who was riding her snowboard along the edges, catching jumps and trying new tricks.  My husband followed alongside both of them, video camera in hand, cheering both girls on.  This was pure magic, I was so present in the moment, finally feeling complete.  I took a deep breathe and sat back  to soak it all in.

The rest of our trip was just as special.  Snowmama Kristen told me about Guardian Angels babysitting service, I had never left my youngest with a babysitter outside of family before, but I trusted her recommendation.  So my husband, oldest daughter and I took a snowboarding clinic.  We learned new techniques, worked on changing bad habits, and took on the smaller terrain park.  I’m pretty sure I was the oldest one on the box slide! 

After our session we headed back to the room to find the baby sitter reading to my smiling daughter.  The National Ability Center gave us cross country skiing lessons and provided equipment so our whole family could participate.  Both girls also took a horse back riding lesson at the National Ability Center, and learned to rock wall climb together.  We spent evenings on Main Street, shopping and trying new restaurants.  Everything was so close and accessible making getting around easy so we could enjoy a lot each day.  We took full advantage of that

On the alpine coaster

On the alpine coaster

Among all of these memories, one of my favorites is the Alpine Coaster.  Park City Mountain Resort allowed my daughter to go on this coaster that ascends the mountain, then speeds down around tight curves and banks.  She doesn’t usually get to go on rides like that.  She rode down with my husband and when she came into view all I could see was her huge smile.  Something I was seeing often on this trip.

We returned home from Park City refreshed and with what I call the Park City after-glow.  Later that week I noticed my oldest was Googling houses for sale in Park City- – you know it’s been a good trip when your teenager wants to move there.  I asked her what she enjoyed the most about our trip and she said, “I loved doing things together as a family like other families do, and I think that’s the happiest that I’ve ever seen dad.”  My husband is an easy-going, happy guy and a very involved dad, so her perception was really telling.  We were all feeling the same way.  Complete.

I don’t want to sound overly dramatic here, but this trip really did change my life, or at least my perspective on how I want to live. For years I have been tracking down specialists and protocols that might be able to provide some answers so that my daughter could be healthier and live her best life.  While that is still important, I learned that I need to LIVE life more in the process.  Although we travel a lot together as a family, we need to be more adventurous.  I saw that my daughter’s life gets a little boring and she needs more, and that we all have the need to be engaged in activities as a family.

Last month I started planning our winter getaways and asked my daughters what kinds of trips they wanted to take and where they’d like to go.  My oldest said, “Park City!” and her sister nodded and laughed in agreement.   The trip has now been booked and we can’t wait for more adventures!

Karin Sheets is a Seattle-area techie, travel blogger and mother of two teens, one of them with special needs. She encourages all families to live the adventure of life, regardless of circumstances.  She is a contributer for www.TravelingMom.com and www.Snowmamas.com.  Her personal blog is www.specialneedstravelmom.com and you can follow her @ionMyAdventures on Twitter or www.facebook.com/SpecialNeedsTravelMom.

 


Families & Groups, Snow Vacations, Travel Diary, Volunteer & Service | 2 Comments

2 Responses to A life-changing trip to the slopes with a disabled daughter

  1. Johanne says:

    I loved your experience on the slopes engaging your special daughter rather than protecting her from danger. She rose to the challenge and will prosper from it.

    We took 3 grandchildren on a schooner trip off the Maine coast for our 50th wedding anniversary along with their parents. What a blast , 4 nights on board, tasks to do, fishing, swimming in icy waters, hiking on an island a Pirate hunt for hidden treasure and lobster roast. Memories for all will serve us well along with the camaraderie we experienced.

  2. Congratulations Karin on becoming a Snowmama, and thank you for a truly inspiring story. As a Lift Line Coordinator at PCMR on First Time lift, I have the pleasure of talking to and sometimes assisting the most amazing people who’s lives are transformed by the special people at the National Ability Center. Both the skiers/snowboarders and the people who assist them at the NAC are truly courageous and an inspiration. Hope to see you and your daughter at First Time soon.

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