Want to do the “Impossible?”

Want to do the “Impossible?”

Want to do the “Impossible?” Find the Mavericks who Can. If you think something is impossible, go out and find the mavericks who have already done it. That’s the number one lesson I learned from my unforgettable experiences skiing blind, literally. I am a writer, business owner, and skier, who just happens to be blind.

My blindness doesn’t define me, although without a doubt, having no usable vision has always shaped the way I interact with the world, as well as how others interact with me. Too often, people expect much less from someone with a disability than they do from someone they believe to be able-bodied. This is why, for much of my life, I shied away from the parts of my personal story that included blindness, or anything else that people might perceive as a major weakness. Now, I embrace and speak about my personal and professional journey from a position of strength. I even enjoy doing so, all because I learned to do what I once thought was impossible.

The fun began with my martial arts instructor, Sensei Devin Fernandez. Shortly after losing much of his eyesight, he began to notice the low expectations and limited opportunities, especially in sports and fitness. Out of his loss, he brought forth a gift for the blind community, establishing a martial arts and fitness program called Third Eye Insight, located on Long Island, New York.

When Sensei Devin told the class about a ski weekend for the blind at Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports, he casually asked if any of us would like to go, too. For me, this was a big deal. I never even thought to Google “blind skiing” because I had no idea it was possible, especially for clumsy Krista. What if they’re all just crazy, I wondered. Yet, although it sounded absolutely terrifying, I opened my mind enough to pick up the phone. My journey started with that simple step.

When the program director answered, I asked so many questions: do people get hurt? What sort of training do the volunteer instructors and ski guides have? Will I get hurt? How do you do it, anyway? Oh, and will I get hurt?

The program director answered my questions, and I realized there was a method to the madness. I would have an experienced instructor to teach me, hands-on, what to do. All instructors and ski guides would have special training in how to teach and direct blind people on the slopes. Generally, each blind skier would have an instructor and one or two volunteers who would forge a safe path forward. Once I was skilled enough to ski without holding onto anything, the lead skier would call out directions to me.

After answering my questions, the director said, “Why don’t you come out onto the snow and see what it’s like? You don’t even have to ski.” That’s when I realized that I would understand much more by actually being around this wonderful community of people who had learned their innovative techniques from the mavericks who can. Soon afterward, I took another step forward and booked the trip.

I’ll never forget that first weekend on the slopes of Pico Mountain: the peppery snow on my face, the swooshing sound of the skiers going by, and learning to feel the fall line under my feet. Everyone was so cheerful and warm, especially the instructors and ski guides. Yet, my whole body tensed in fear.

Slowly but surely, I learned how the correct skiing postures felt in my body. I learned to walk in the clumsy ski boots, balance on the skis, glide, and turn. When the ski instructor gave me that first push down that little hill, it was so exciting. I was skiing! I was gliding! I was turning! And then, I was falling. And I got back up again.

Even though I didn’t make it onto the ski lift that first weekend, I was proud, because I had tried something new and exceeded my own expectations. Sometimes, people with disabilities get labelled “inspirational” for doing ordinary, everyday things that most people do. In contrast, because most people never even attempt skiing, I had truly done something that could inspire others.

This is how I was able to flip the script on my blindness: from perceived weakness to powerful strength. As a blind person, I especially benefit from the innovators, the mavericks, that think outside the box so that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things. There are whole communities of people who do what many of us assume can’t be done, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to join one of them.