We are a ski family. My wife, Kristin, my son, Grant, and I all love to ski. But my teenaged daughter, Karly, loves skiing more than any of us, and today, she is jonesing to get on the slopes.
Every day this summer, Karly retrieves her boot bag and carries her blue Lange ski boots around by the buckles, pointing to them or grabbing one of her many T-shirts adorned with a Tuckerman Ravine logo. She points at the logo, holds her boots up and screeches. With her big blue eyes flashing, we know she is asking to go skiing. This screeching may go on for hours; she is relentless. We tell her, “Yes, we are going to go soon.” Her face lights up. She wants to go now, today, even though it is August. She heads out to the car with her gear, and we tell her again, “Soon, but not today.”
Karly suffers from an undiagnosed global development delay condition. Think of a one-year-old child in a 14-year-old’s body. Although non-verbal with limited sign language, Karly is able to connect with a communication book, filled with pictures and symbols of various New Hampshire ski haunts such as Tuckerman Ravine, Attitash and Wildcat. More often than not, she points to a symbol of a skier, beckoning “Can I go today, Daddy?” Emphasizing her point, she grabs her favorite T-shirt and demands (with non-verbal cues), I want to go NOW!
As Karly fixates on the T-shirt, she has no temporal understanding that it won’t snow for months. She just knows she wants to go to the mountains. Making matters worse, she wants to go to Tucks. Maybe it’s because her big brother, Grant, skis the ravine.
To get a minute of peace, Kristin hides the Tucks T-shirt and redirects Karly to Luka, our 130-pound Leonberger. Luka nuzzles Karly until she is calm.
The T-shirt is leftover from the Tuckerman Inferno Race, an extreme pentathlon that finishes on Tuckerman Ravine. The Inferno has an adaptive team division, so each year, our whole family, including Karly, participates. She has never skied the ravine, however; this is reserved for Grant.
Karly does ski Attitash and Wildcat. Each winter day, we wake to a ski boot being dropped onto our bed, announcing that it is time to go. Thanks to the AbilityPLUS adaptive ski program, Karly started in a bi-unique ski before she could walk. The bi-unique is an adaptive sitski similar to mono-skis commonly used by people unable to walk. Ten years later, Karly skis on two skis, tethered to an instructor.
After 10 years, the Attitash mountain staff and the folks from AbilityPLUS know Karly well. Each day, a staff member holds open the door and yells, “Hello Karly!” Karly marches into the adaptive room, looking for Liz, the director of the program. Liz calls out, “Hey Trouble!” Karly runs up to Liz and gives her a hug, screeches and points to the snow.
Karly greets each instructor as they come in from their morning runs. Ski-Pa Rich, with his winter beard, honed his skiing in Colorado. Big Uncle Joe, a former offensive lineman, fills the doorway when he enters. Betsy knows every camp song ever written. Lastly, Crusty, a grizzled, old codger who has been skiing with Karly longer than anyone, enters. He looks as if he would snap your head off for no good reason. If someone messed with Karly, he would.
Braving all types of weather, Karly may ski as many as 20 runs. Après is at our favorite watering hole, Matty B’s. As soon as Karly walks in, Matty pours her a chocolate milk. While Kristin and I throw back a pitcher of Tuckerman Pale Ale, Karly enjoys her well-earned milk and shares the attention of her fellow skiers.
In the spring, Karly does longer runs at Wildcat, preparing for the season finale—the annual Tuckerman Inferno Race. Although we never win, our family and AbilityPLUS friends participate, and the post-race ceremony becomes the final après celebration of the year.
Come summer, Karly will again find her Tuckerman shirt and bring it to us. We know what she wants. Hopefully someday, Karly will be ready to join Grant at Tucks.