Written by Todd Sahner
For many years, I taught skiing and snowboarding at the Adaptive Sports Foundation as a volunteer instructor. I skied or snowboarded everywhere on Windham Mountain with ease. I gave the first snowboard lesson to many of our students on the racing team.
Life changed for me a few years ago when I developed a neurological condition that cost me the use of my legs. In 2008, I could no longer snowboard or ski. In fact, I could barely walk.
So, I became an indoor volunteer, doing what I could to remain active in the program and stay in contact with friends, fellow volunteers, and students. My fellow instructors and students, especially Michael Mistretta, Kevin Cohane, John Swartwood and Mary Bozzone, gave me wonderful advice on how to cope with my new disability, which made life a lot easier. I learned how to use crutches and a wheelchair, which was something I never thought I would have to deal with on a personal level.
Last winter, I took the plunge and tried mono-skiing. With assistance and encouragement from Adam DeMuth, my daughter Dani, and many other instructors, I was finally able to get back on the snow. The experience was exciting and enlightening! Being on the other side, a student and not instructor, brought home two things I never understood before: first, how hard it is for our students to do what we ask them to do; and second, how dedicated and competent our instructors are.
I wish I could say I was an instant superstar, but the fact is, I did a lot of falling, and Adam and Dani did a lot of picking up. I knew what I was supposed to do, but I wasn’t always able to do it. And, it is amazing how steep White Way, a Windham Mountain beginner trail, looks when you are going down in a mono-ski and not upright on a snowboard. After a few days and many runs, I was able to master Willpower, another Windham Mountain beginner trail, and get up and down White Way with ease.
My instructors displayed infinite patience, not only teaching me how to ski, but encouraging me after each frustrating fall. This year my goal is to improve enough so that I can return to teaching. If I can accomplish that, I know I will be better than I ever was before, because now I have seen life from the other side.