U.S. Paralympics Alp... News Alpine Roundup: Gett...

Alpine Roundup: Getting Back to Work

By Stephen Kerr | Nov. 03, 2021, 11:30 a.m. (ET)

Andrew Haraghey competes at the PyeongChang Paralympics. (Photo: Mark Reis)

Every other week we scour the web for the latest going on in the world of U.S. Para alpine skiing. Here’s what you missed!


Back On The Slopes


Members of the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing National Team flew to Saas-Fee, Switzerland, in October for the final training camp before the first race at Canada’s Panorama Mountain in November. It’s a chance for everyone to get in some last-minute advanced work before competition begins in earnest.


Many of the skiers made sure to include their sponsors and social media followers in the experience.


“Back on snow again!” Andrew Kurka posted on Instagram.

“Eyes on the prize 👀,” Thomas Walsh wrote.


Spencer Wood posted, “gotta testify, come up in the spot looking extra fly”-ye.”

“New boot goofin out here in @saasfee thanks to Matt @parkcitybootroom they're killers on the course!” Andrew Haraghey wrote.

Not Your Typical Snow


Kurka and Walsh both took time out of their busy training schedules in Saas-Fee to talk with reporters at the Team USA Media Summit, held virtually Oct. 18 and 19.


They each addressed the issue of being in an area of China that doesn’t accumulate a regular amount of natural snow, forcing athletes to compete on artificial snow during the Beijing Games.


“I’m honestly not worried about it, because our team’s been training all over the world and we’re prepared for all different types of surfaces and snow conditions,” Kurka said. “I have faith that China is going to take it very serious and have plenty of snow there so that there won’t be rocks or anything poking up in the course.”


Added Walsh, “it’s going to be great. (China has) a lot of power to get that done.”


More Elbow Room


There’s never a good time to have surgery. But it’s especially stressful when it happens before the Paralympic Games.


Jasmin Bambur underwent elbow surgery for some cleanup work. He posted about it on social media saying, “elbow surgery went well. Not ideal before the Paralympic Games, but we had to do a major cleanup. I’m already able to straighten my elbow. It is super painful but it will be OK. Thank you TEAM for making this happen.”


A number of people wished him well, including three-time Paralympic medalist Danelle Umstead.

Barbie On Skis


There’s almost nothing Barbie isn’t capable of. Since Mattel created the popular and at times controversial doll back in 1959, she has done everything from piloting an airplane to running for president.


Recently, she was introduced as Para Alpine Skier Barbie, sporting a pink and white suit with a silver sit ski and outriggers. The new line is part of Mattel’s You Can Do Anything range of dolls.


Adapting to Challenges


USOPC sport psychologist Sean McCann also spoke in a Media Summit session regarding what unique challenges winter athletes face compared to summer athletes.


McCann believes U.S. winter athletes are better prepared when it comes to being away from family for long stretches, since most of their competitions take place abroad.


“They’re very familiar with being away from support systems, sometimes spouses, kids, for in some cases five months out of the year,” he explained. “They’re really good with Zoom and FaceTime and every other sort of technological way to get connected with their families and adjust for time zones.”


To that end, the USOPC has renewed its commitment to provide support while they’re away, according to Dr. Jessica Bartley, director of mental health services.


“We actually did some mental health screens around anxiety, depression, eating disorders, sleep, alcohol and drug use over the summer,” Dr. Bartley said. “We’re going to repeat that and just try to keep tabs on them a little bit too … We’re covering couples’ therapy, family therapy. We have a number of athletes doing that while they’re in Europe.”


A New Spin On Sit Skiing


A group of adaptive skiers are paving the way for what they hope will eventually become a formal sport: freestyle sit skiing.


Josh Dueck, a Canadian Paralympic silver medalist in slalom, began tinkering with the idea between the 2010 and 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. The idea of freestyle sit skiing is to measure progress in style rather than time and distance. It involves daring spins and backflips instead of racing.


Dueck has caught the attention of several other adaptive skiers around the world, including Jay Rawe of the United States.


Could freestyle sit skiing become a real sport one day?


“The interest is there and the push is there,” Rawe told Paralympic.org. “Realistically, we’re several years out from this becoming a sport.”


The skiers’ efforts have also garnered interest from the media and general public, including “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year, ESPN’s Top 10 Plays on Snapchat and thousands of fan letters. They hope the exposure will lead to continued growth of the sport.

Stephen Kerr

Stephen Kerr is a freelance journalist and newsletter publisher based in Austin, Texas. He is a contributor to USParaAlpineSkiing.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. You can follow him on Twitter @smkwriter1.