As I sit here remembering one of the best ski outings I have experienced in recent years, I decided to share my joy with others affected by Parkinson’s disease. The January Parkinson’s Association of the Rockies’ newsletter featured an upcoming Ski Program for people with Parkinson’s sponsored by the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC).
My curiosity was peaked. Just three years prior, I thought I had skied for the last time. It was about this time when my brain started to fail in sending the proper signals to the right side of my body; leaving me at the middle of the mountain waiting to be driven to the bottom by the ski patrol. The pain of that moment was indelible.
Needless to say, the opportunity of participating in BOEC’s new Ski Camp for people with Parkinson’s was irresistible. I called imminently and applied for the upcoming February Ski Camp. The staff was terrific in answering questions and providing support throughout the entire application process.
After much anticipation it was finally time for Ski Camp; and this week quickly became an unforgettable experience! The Camp is hosted at the magnificent Scott Griffith Lodge; and the BOEC staff members, Doug, Katie, Jack, Bart and Amanda, who spent the week with us, were phenomenal. Together they guided us through one of the most meaningful weeks of our lives since our onset of living with Parkinson’s disease.
The outdoor activities were well thought out and extraordinarily facilitated by the BOEC staff. These amazing individuals work every day to extend the potential of all people who are affected by disabilities or have special needs. It became clear early on in our week together, that the BOEC ski instructors and volunteers posses that uncanny ability to make the individual they are working with feel like they are the most important person at that time. Each of us felt very safe at all times!
Whether we chose to Alpine Ski, Nordic Ski or Snowshoe for our daily activity; we were at all times flanked by these angles. For every activity we participated in we had two wonderful instructors on either side of us as we forged new skills in the snow.
Back at the Lodge, we were able to pitch in if we felt like it. The staff (who stayed with us 24 hours a day) shared the daily schedule with us, kept us on track, cooked 3 tasty meals a day, shuttled us in the van from one location to the other and provided special events for us at the Lodge. Nightly entertainment included a local folk music group and professionally instructed yoga.
A connection grew very quickly between all of us over the week; something that we didn’t expect but were pleasantly surprised to have received. I feel confident that this connection grew out of the genuine empathy we all have for one another. For those of us who are affected by Parkinson’s we often have find this empathy in one another; but there is a special empathy we all experienced from those who provide this life changing outdoor learning experiences for us and for many others who have special needs.
Thank you to the Parkinson Association for continuously providing us with information on life changing opportunities in your newsletter. Thank you to the BOEC Staff for working so hard to provide this very special and life changing adventure. And thank you to my new friends Anthony, Kaye, Claudia, Kitsi and Brian for sharing yourselves during this unforgettable week.
Jeannie, your story about skiiing brought back vivid memories of my last two ski outings. The second to last outing I felt was a gift to me from God as the snow was soft, the sun was out and I had an amazing ski day! I skimmed over the snow, fast fast fast - the only way I could be fast after 13 years with PD. I felt graceful and sharp as I flew over the snow that day.
The last time I skiied, I went "off" while skiing down a slope. It scared me because my left leg wouldn't kick around. I stopped on the slope and started to cry. That made me so mad at myself - because that was NOT how I wanted to handle my PD - that I uttered a never used cuss word, turned my skis, and went straight down the slope!
So two very different, but equally memorable days of skiing with and in spite of having PD.