Vail welcomes wounded veterans to the slopes
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
VAIL ” Ohio resident William “Biff” Fry had skied before, but never like this.
Fry, an Air Force veteran who served in Saudi Arabia, usually gets around in a wheelchair, but this week he traded his wheelchair for a mono-ski on Vail’s Golden Peak.
He had skied once before he developed multiple sclerosis from receiving anthrax shots.
“This is the first time I started on my a– and ended on my a–,” he said, grinning.
“Here we go,” said Fry’s instructor as they started down Gopher Hill.
At first the instructor pushed Fry’s ski, but after a few moments, the instructor let him go, steering with tethers and letting Fry coast down the slope.
“I had a blast. It’s just great because the instructors are there the whole time to go through it with you. They give you your legs, so to speak,” Fry said.
Fry is one of eight veterans who participated in the Vail Veterans Program’s fifth annual sit-ski clinic.
The program runs a bigger mono-ski clinic for amputees in March, but this month’s clinic focused on veterans with spinal-cord injuries, said Cheryl Jensen, the program’s president.
“These are all people who served our country, and it’s nice for them to get out and be able to do this,” she said.
In fact, Fry said he liked the experience so much that he plans to compete in the winter wheelchair Olympics in Aspen this year. He wants to try every sport and figure out what he likes and what he can do, he said.
“I can’t figure out how people can sit and dwell. I can’t do that. If you could do it before, you can do it now. You’ve just got to find a different way to do it,” Fry said.
Some participants had never skied before, such as Florida resident Elmer Dinglasan, who lost both of his legs in a land-mine explosion.
“I was nervous at first, but I was up for the challenge,” he said. “It was a nice feeling with the speed and the air in your face.”
For Dinglasan, who has struggled just to relearn how to walk, getting on the slopes was a big accomplishment. For two years since his injury, he has focused on learning to adapt and regain strength, and now he feels ready to try new things.
“I can’t sit down and feel sorry about it ” it already happened. That’s not going to make it better,” he said.
Georgia resident Sean Long, who was shot three times in his leg while serving with the Georgia National Guard, looked impatiently at the slope, ready to conquer some of the steeper runs.
He and instructor Dave Callahan had spent the previous day getting comfortable on blue runs. It’s encouraging for him to learn something new even after getting injured.
“It feels great to know that it doesn’t stop with what happened yesterday,” Long said of his injury. “It starts with what happens today.”
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