Undaunted, disabled monoskiers tackle extreme Buttermilk course | AspenTimes.com
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Undaunted, disabled monoskiers tackle extreme Buttermilk course

Eben Harrell
Sam Ferguson heli-skiing at the Portillo resort in Chile. The Aspenite, along with Edwards resident Sarah Will, put on a demonstration last year that paved the way for today's event. Jonathan Selkowitz/Selko photo.
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More than ordinary humans, they are bound to the earth. But the spirit of these games – to break constraints – pulses through their disabled bodies, too.They’re athletes and, for today, extreme ones at that. A group of 15 disabled men and women will catch up to 30 feet of air today as they race on monoskis down a modified X Course.It’s called a sit-ski demo, and it’s the first of its kind. While most competitive monoskiing takes place on timed downhill courses, skiers from the United States and Canadian disabled ski teams and a few extreme disabled skiers will match their skills against bumps, jumps and each other in the sport’s first mass-start event.”This is new to almost all of us. The experience we’ve had in terrain parks is just through playing around on our own,” Canadian Disabled Ski Team member Kim Joines said. “In fact, my national coach needed a lot of convincing to let me come do something different like this. But I think it’ll be great for the sport.”The event was conceived last year after the popular reception of a superpipe exhibition by disabled skiers Sarah Will and Sam Ferguson, an Aspen local. ESPN executives contacted U.S. Disabled Ski Team coach Kevin Jardine about assembling a full field.

“I think the main purpose is to expose a different type of fan to what abilities these guys have and to get the word about disabled skiing out there,” Jardine said. “These are some awesome athletes.”Yesterday the monoskiers assembled on the deck of Bumps restaurant to scout the X Course during the skiercross and boardercross events. On the slightly modified course, the monoskiers will compete in groups of three. The athletes said they are awed by the varied terrain and close quarters of a skiercross race.Many of the athletes were disabled participating in extreme sports similar to those in the X Games. Some remain fearless – “I’ve broken so many bones it doesn’t even matter,” Joines said. Others are less certain.

“It stops to make you think about it,” Will said. “I’ve never done a race like this before. If in my practice runs tomorrow I feel it’s over my ability, I don’t have to do it.”The disabled skiers said yesterday they have been accepted by their counterparts in the X Games. Although they are not considered official event athletes – they paid their own travel and accommodation expenses – the disabled skiers said they’ve enjoyed all the exclusive apres X parties available to participants. In the process, they’ve made some friends.”Everyone’s been really cool. We share a lot in common, including equipment. Our monoskis have motorcycle shocks on them, so that’s something to talk about,” skier Joe Tompkins said. While the event is a demonstration without prize money, two local businesses, Mason and Morse Real Estate and Gorsuch Ltd., have donated a purse of $3,000. It will be winner-take-all for both the men and women’s fields. Tavia Fisher, ESPN manager of corporate outreach, said the sit-ski demonstration is an effort to appeal to ESPN’s disabled fan base.

“The awareness is definitely there within the disabled market. We just have to bring more awareness to it,” she said.Fisher said she could not comment on whether disabled events might become a mainstay of the X Games.Today’s demonstration will take place on the X Course at noon with practice scheduled from 10-11:30 a.m. There will be three heats of three men, with the winner advancing to the final. For the women, there will be two heats of three, with the top two from each advancing to the final.For more information about the U.S. Disabled Ski Team, visit http://www.usskiteam.com. For information about ESPN’s disabled outreach programs, visit http://www.teamespn.com.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com


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