Spreading the Stokes

Written by Winter Intern, Claire

After two months of working with Challenge Aspen, I can’t say that I’ve ever had a dull day at work.  Every lesson is new; every participant brings new stories and a new experience. Out of the many people I’ve had the opportunity to work with I’ve never had two of the same lessons. Everyone is different and we adjust the equipment and the goals of the day to match their style.

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Skiing is an incredible sport that brings all us together with so many really fun and amazing people. Despite the type of disability that brings people to work with Challenge Aspen in the first place, the end goal is always to ski, to experience and improve on something that is such pure fun and brings such joy that the hard work is put in.

Early in January, I had that chance to work with a 6 year old boy named Simon with a developmental disease. He was cognitively closer to age three and had the physical strength of an 8 year old. Simon was also ambidextrous and could choose to go all floppy when he was tired of practicing. In order to aid his standing we used a Slider while he skied. A slider is like a walker on skis, the participant holds onto the bars at elbow height and is tethered to an instructor in the back who controls the speed and most cases also directs the turns.

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Simon was a handful. He has an angelic face that glows when he smiles but he is fairly non-verbal and slips easily into fits of anger and physical violence.

I’ve once read that peoples’ emotions work on a relative spectrum. People feel wealthier once you’ve experienced poverty, they feel as much joy as you have felt sadness and are able to appreciate happiness more once you have felt unhappiness. I feel that this spoke a lot of truth in Simon’s case. He had his moments of anger and lashing out, falling over and refusing to listen to us. But when he was sliding down the slope, feeling the wind in his face and yelling ‘fast! fast! fast!’ I have never seen a bigger smile or a happier little boy.

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