Former Miss Colombia visits Snowmass to ski with Challenge Aspen
Daniela Alvarez was always active, and when she lost her left leg, she was determined to continue doing the things she loved.
Except skiing. She was certain that was done forever.
Then she got a call from Challenge Aspen inviting her to visit Aspen Snowmass to learn to ski with adaptive equipment.
“I didn’t even think about the answer,” she said. “I just knew it was a big ‘yes!'”
She came to Snowmass from Barranquilla, Colombia, where she was crowned Miss Colombia in 2011.
In 2020, Alvarez underwent surgery to remove a small mass from her abdomen. When doctors discovered the mass was affecting her heart, she had multiple surgeries including grafts to repair it. To avoid any more complications, she and her doctors decided to amputate the lower half of her left leg.
Just months before her amputation, she had skied for the first time in Vail and discovered her love for the sport. She never thought skiing would be possible for her again — not only because of her amputation, but also because of her foot drop in her right foot. The complications during her surgeries left her with a foot drop, which means she has difficulty lifting the front part of her right foot.
“(Challenge Aspen) said, ‘No problem. We have everything. We can offer you a lot of ways to ski,'” Alvarez said.
Her first day of skiing with Challenge Aspen was last week at Snowmass. She started off using a monoski – a sit ski with one ski.
“It was hard, so hard,” she said. “I chose the highest level with the monoski, and I was falling and falling, but I didn’t care. I tried again and again, and I never quit.”
She said one of her Challenge Aspen instructors, Nate Gillette, told her that most people would quit after half a day of trying the monoski, but she kept at it all day long to exhaustion.
The next day, Alvarez opted for a bi-ski – a sit ski with two skis instead of the one.
“It had a little bit more balance,” she said. “It was a bit easier, not that it was easy at all.”
She has amassed large followings on her personal Instagram (@danielaalvareztv) and the Daniela Alvarez Foundation Instagram (@fundaciondanielaalvarez). The mission of her foundation is to impact the quality of life and happiness of people with reduced mobility.
Through her personal Instagram, she is able to demonstrate what she is capable of doing despite her disability.
“I think (my message) is about resilience, optimism, and self-esteem. When you really want something, you can achieve it,” she said. “I think that message is not only for handicapped people. It is for everyone.”
Her final lesson was on Tuesday, and she said she will be back next year to continue building her adaptive-ski skills and confidence with skiing.
“I feel like I am very lucky to have had this opportunity. I’m very optimistic about this in my life because I know that now I could do (skiing) with my family. I could do this with a boyfriend. I could do this with my friends or anyone who loves to ski. There’s tons of possibility for me, so this is amazing,” she said.
Without Challenge Aspen and her instructors, Gillette and Coby Langley, she said she doesn’t know if she would have ever had the chance to ski again.
“They love to teach, and you can feel that,” she said. “It’s so nice to be surrounded by these kinds of people and to feel secure and confident with the equipment and skiing. It’s nice to celebrate our disabilities.”
And to know she’ll be skiing again.
To reach Audrey Ryan, email her at email@example.com.
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