The High Fives Foundation has placed a lot of focus on the development of adaptive camps in the last few years!

Ski, surf and mountain bike camps have been hosted in Tahoe, Minnesota, Vermont, Colorado and Hawaii (amongst other places), introducing many athletes to a variety of adaptive outlets. The most recent adaptive camp was held in Winter Park, CO from January 3-6, 2018. A special shoutout to Craig Hospital for making this camp possible.

All photo credit to Chris Bartowski of Generikal Design

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The Winter Park, Colo. ski camp highlighted three adaptive athletes who all suffered life-altering spinal cord injuries in the winter action sports community within the last two years, and each of them were excited to get back out onto the mountain following their respective injuries. Justin Pines (Englewood, Colo.), Allyson Mallory (Englewood, Colo.) and Drew Stephens (Rapid City, SD) were all under the instruction of Winter Park’s National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD).

The four days of lessons with NSCD kicked off on Wednesday, January 3rd.

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“My instructor was really patient,” said High Fives Athlete, Allyson Mallory. “She gave me specific skills and activities to work on in the beginning. As I felt more comfortable with these skills, we moved onto another area of focus. I felt that it was a collaborative process where we both were on the same page of mastering foundational skills before heading up the lift.  Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.”

Lessons on the two first days of camp were administered on the “magic carpet” beginner area of the mountain, with each camper progressing at their own speed.

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Not everything went smooth from the beginning.

“Frankly, it (the first couple days of skiing) was really hard, and at times, discouraging,” said High Fives Athlete, Justin Pines. “I struggled to get a feel for the new style of movement without use of my core and spent most of my time falling.”

Along with instruction provided by National Sports Center for the Disabled professionals, Pines, Mallory and Stephens were paired with accomplished adaptive skiers/High Fives Athletes Alana Nichols, Trevor Kennison and Josh Scanlon. Nichols, Kennison and Scanlon train at NSCD, and were eager to pass along their ski knowledge to the three individuals new to adaptive skiing. They provided valuable advice all week to the new High Fives Athletes.

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“There were a few things that I noticed right away that really helped Justin,” said High Fives Athlete, Trevor Kennison. “Considering I just started mono-skiing a few years ago, it was really cool to see my input translate to success in Justin’s skiing.”

Day three saw each of the new skiers move from the magic carpet to Winter Park’s Gemini Lift, which took them to the top of the mountain. This is the moment when it ‘clicked’ for Mallory and Stephens.

It took me back to a time where being on the snow was effortless. It gave me a renewed sense of freedom and independence. More than anything though, the cheers and support once I got down the mountain was by far what I cherished most.

High Fives Athlete, Allyson Mallory

There are many factors in adaptive sit-down skiing (injury level, muscle tone, etc.). While Mallory and Stephens enjoyed early success in their lessons through NSCD, the final day saw Pines experiencing his most enjoyable day of skiing since his April, 2016 injury.

“When I finally had a breakthrough at the end of the final day, and began stringing turns together, it was euphoric,” said Pines. “I was finally skiing again! Especially given the difficult start, finally starting to recapture the feeling of skiing down the hill was so so sweet.”

After a successful camp full of skiing, laughter, fun dinners and community building, each Athlete had something to take home. Whether it was a ski tip, a spinal cord injury life-hack, or just a funny conversation, each participant gained value from the experience.

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I’m so thankful for the role that High Fives has played to help me get back on the snow. They have given so much more than just financial support. The individuals who are involved with the High Fives Foundation have become family, and we all share a common bond - To progress in life no matter the circumstances. I am eternally grateful for this unstoppable Ohana!

High Fives Athlete, Drew Stephens

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