I write this from my condo in Winter Park, Colorado on a day off from skiing. I flew out after Christmas and have been here for three weeks. I was due to take part in the Winter Park Open race just after new year but unfortunately the race I was doing was cancelled due to too much snow! It was a real shame but at least I have another one in three weeks time in Park City, Utah to focus on. We have had a lot of snow and consequently quite a few powder days which have been a blast. Powder skiing in a monoski, especially for me being an LW10-1 (which means little or no core strength), can be difficult and I recall this time last year when I really struggled in the powder. Happily, I am well able to ski it now, and can finally see what all the fuss is about! Now I'm counting down the weeks until my next race I'm hoping for less powder days as I want to get as much training in gates as I can so that I can perform well in the race.
This week I spent two days at Aspen Seating down in Denver to get fitted for my new custom made sit ski seat which has been funded for me by the very generous Matt Hampson Foundation (http://matthampsonfoundation.org/) - a fantastic charity that supports people who are have been seriously injured. I was put onto the foundation by a Back Up colleague and friend of mine, Tim Farr who was a ski racer with the British Disabled Ski Team, and went to the Paralympics in Vancouver in 2010. He has been great in giving me advice about ski racing and I spoke to him about getting a new seat for my rig as it was something that I had been thinking about for a while and he suggested I get in touch with them. I contacted the foundation and the CEO arranged to meet me at the Snozone in Milton Keynes during a training session. I met with him after he'd watched me skiing and we spoke about my ambitions and about the custom seat I wanted to get. He told me that they would be happy to support me and to fund this seat. I was obviously thrilled and was really excited to come to America and get my new seat.
I spent the first appointment getting a mould made for my seat where I basically sat in the shell seat which was filled with that stuff people stick flowers in. Then I was lifted out of it and Matt covered it with wet plaster strips which quickly dried. Once it was covered he lifted it out and it was a mould of my bum! I came back the following Friday and from that mould Matt had made the foam insert that goes into the shell which I sit on. I sat in this and it fitted like an absolute glove! Following this he attached the various straps that hold me in place on my thighs, hips and stomach. The next step was decide on the position of the backrest and to insert padding to make it fit me perfectly. I have slight scoliosis in my lower back so the lumbar section was padded so as to accommodate this. It definitely means that it would be pointless anyone stealing this expensive piece of it as it won't fit anyone but me!
I must admit I was a little nervous about taking it out for the first time as I was so sure there would be things I wasn't happy with. I was instructed to take it easy for the first few runs, which I did, and I was pleasantly surprised that I could ski in it absolutely fine! It has some different features like a fixed back rather than an adjustable one, it's slightly higher due to more foam underneath me, and the backrest is shaped differently to my previous seat, but I was really pleased with the way it felt! It will take a bit of getting used to and possibly some adjustments (I need to go back to Aspen Seating to have my leg cover added next week anyway) but all in all, its a fantastic seat and I'm really pleased with it. A huge thank you to the Matt Hampson Foundation for funding it for me. I am so grateful! Will definitely get some pictures up on social media of the finished article when it's completed.
My next race is in three weeks time so I'll be getting my head down and working hard on and off the slopes before then. Luckily Winter Park has a fantastic gym with great facilities which I've been using for workouts and recovery sessions after skiing. Today I've had a day off (and caught up with some much needed life admin!) but I'm looking forward to getting back on the hill tomorrow.