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Accessibility Anxiety

By Rebecca Bell, 04/14/22, 9:45AM EDT


A great story from Loon Racing Team parent, Heather Krill, on her family's experience at Mittersill for the U12 State Championship.


I share these photos because they make me really happy. However, they almost didn’t happen, given my husband Geoff’s legitimate concerns about accessibility. The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation blog audience understands fully that just because something or someone or someplace SAYS they are fully accessible does not necessarily mean that they are. For example, we built an accessible and ramped treehouse; however, it is not actually all that accessible in the winter as I do not maintain the path to get there through the woods, and the deep snow makes it impossible to pass with a wheelchair alone.

So, when our children recently made New Hampshire’s U12 ski championships at nearby Cannon Mountain, I explained to Geoff that he really ought to get the afternoon off from work to come to watch our kid's ski race. The Mittersill Competition Center is not only an accessible venue, but the path from the parking lot up to where the race can actually be viewed is PAVED and “Pushably Plowed.” Pushably Plowed is a term we coined at home when the driveway is not completely free of snow, but there isn’t so much that blocks Geoff’s ability to wheel to his car.

His questions began the night before after a bunch of snow had fallen.

  • Should I bring my monoski just in case I can’t push through the snow?
  • Is there enough HP parking?
  • Where should you meet me?
  • Is there cell service if I try to call you when I get there?

Heather and GeoffMind you, my husband is a superhero of sorts. He travels the world for skiing and visits other mountains regularly for his work on the PSIA National Demonstration Team as the adaptive coach. He not only consults with adaptive sports programs and individuals; he is the training director for Loon Mountains Snowsports, but there are people in these places he can count on to help him if, on the rare occasion, he does.

Fast forward to Cannon. Parking was an issue, but we made a spot as several non-disabled people had already done. The paved pathway from the lot led straight up past the competition center, where we had a clear view of one of the best race venues in New England. While this was not a World Championship or the Olympics, we were able to watch our two children in their U12 state champs on a course that could not have been made any more accessible. The enormous crowds inside due to the crazy cold for mid-March kept us outside, but we dressed appropriately-- more importantly, it didn’t matter. There were elderly grandparents and people with torn ACL’s, broken ankles, or other kinds of disabilities we maybe could not see firsthand all able to access racing recreation while sitting near windows watching their own children and grandchildren proudly.

Ski MountainIn the end, we were just a couple of regular parents dressed for the Arctic, ready to squeeze our children, cold in only their sleek GS suits, when they crossed the finish line, no matter the result. There would be hot chocolate and high fives among teammates, extra hand warmers, and “Way to Go” cheers from grandparents. The next day, I sent a letter of gratitude to the Franconia Ski Club Board of Directors for their fully accessible Mittersill Competition Center. When a family has faced mobility challenges, and people work extra hard to smooth those out, there aren’t enough words to truly describe that kind of gratitude.

But spring is starting to lift the snow in our parts, which feels really good. Our nights remain really cold, but the daytime allows those sap lines to run pretty quickly from New Hampshire maple trees. We have no buds on trees yet or daffodils or crocus, but we smell the changes on the season horizons. Soon the bikes will come out, and the skis will sleep until next November.

Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 12 and 10 respectively. Please check out her novel True North, website, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.