It wasn’t precisely the ideal day for skiing. The wind was gusting up to 20 miles an hour, kicking up showers of powder snow and laying bare the icy crud underneath. Low clouds scudded across the sky.

It was, on the other hand, a day to go into the base lodge early for a long lunch and watch bewhiskered men rub the icicles from their beards as they walked through the swinging doors into the crowded, steamy building.

After only a couple hours fighting the elements, my wife and I decided it was time to get out of the weather and into, as W. C. Fields once said, a dry martini, when for the first time I saw a disabled person on skis.

He was a younger man, probably in his mid-20s, with one leg amputated below the knee, skiing on his good leg while keeping his balance with poles that had small skis - instead of baskets - on the bottoms.

A few moments later, as we swooshed down a steep shortcut to the base lodge, the one-legged skier was right behind us. At the bottom of the pitch we all stopped briefly. He grinned. “Quite a day,” he said.

“We’ve about had it for this morning,” I said. “You going in to warm up?”

“Oh, hell no,” he laughed. “1 get warm skiing.”

He waved to us, turned, and pushed himself toward a nearby chairlift.

We were awed watching this one-legged man skiing, smiling, reveling in the pursuit of the same challenge and adventure as those of us without any physical handicaps.

He stood patiently in the lift line, though several skiers tried to edge aside so he could crowd ahead. No way. He was a skier. No more. No less. Asking nothing that any able-bodied skier wouldn’t.


The chairlift seated two skiers, side by side. He and another skier slid in front of an empty chair as it swung around the anchor pylon, and dropped into the seat. No fuss. He was on his way up. The wind grew a bit stronger.

My wife said, “How can he stand this weather?”

I said, “We ski in it. He does, too.”

I was filled with admiration for this ordinary miracle of life on the snow. A one-legged man skiing.

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Today, the sight of the physically impaired is increasingly common on the ski runs of America. People of all ages, from kids to seniors, are on the slopes, enjoying the thrill of s
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