My husband and children love downhill skiing. They are talented, accomplished skiers. My kids started downhill ski racing on the Mammoth ski team when they were 6 and 8 years old. I, however, didn’t learn to ski until I was 40 with anxiety about heights and speed. I remember screaming in fear while the magic carpet dragged me up a “hill” that was more like a flat slope with a slight incline. I now consider myself a cautious, intermediate skier.
For the past ten years, my family has driven up to Mammoth Mountain just about every weekend. About five years ago, I stopped downhill skiing and chose to spend my time either cross country skiing or exploring the beautiful scenery with my camera. Some of my favorite photos are of the Mammoth landscape.
My son, Ross, has been heavily involved with Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES) for six years. DSES uses adaptive equipment to make sure that anyone with a disability can enjoy a winter, outdoor experience. I always knew how important the program was, but never personally experienced the work they do until about a month ago. I got a call asking if I would photograph the DSES Alpine Race Camp, I was honored and nervous. I’m not the best skier . . . and I get nervous on the slopes . . . but my love for photography, my son and the organization inspired me to face my fears.
This call brought back many memories of me standing, freezing, on the side of the race course, waiting for those few seconds when my kids would come flying down the course and me trying to catch them in action with my camera. I also remember how scared I was every time I had to ski the steep (or my interpretation of steep) slopes to get to just the right spot to capture those photos.
So, after I was invited to Mammoth as the Official Photographer for DSES I had to once again step up and face my fear of the slopes. For four days I captured the camp activities with my camera. The camp was coached by Paralympian, Lacey Heward. There were 12 athletes ranging from 13-60 years old. Their disabilities ranged from amputations, paralysis, visual impairments, to multiple sclerosis. Some disabilities can be seen on the outside, while others are hidden under their courageous skin. These athletes came to the camp to learn to ski race and have fun. The DSES experience is life changing; the athletes and volunteers’ strength and determination are inspiring.
I now view my fear with a new perspective. Here I am, with no disability, terrified of going down the slopes. To see these people go for it and send themselves down the steep mountain at high rates of speed is truly awakening. The camp was hard work for all, but extremely rewarding. I am happy with my photos and proud to report that while I haven’t entirely conquered my fears I am hopeful next time will be easier.
These are photos of the amazing camp participants:
These are photos of DSES volunteers and staff members with their students who are not able to ski on their own. My son, Ross, is in the orange jacket with blue helmet … I am a proud mama!
Here I am causiously skiing my way to a good spot to get those action shots!