Last week I had the pleasure of skiing with High Fives Winter Empowerment Athlete, Landon McGauley, at Squaw Valley. If you are unfamiliar with who Landon is you should check out “The Landon McGauley Project” video here:
Landon and coaches dropping in.
He’s young, talented, and has become more than an inspiration for myself with his determination to compete in the Olympics in 2014 after a mountain biking accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. After a couple of Wildflour cookies, we met up with the High Fives crew and Landon’s coaches Bill Bowness and John Davis at the base of Squaw and geared up for the day. Bill was John’s coach and both are decorated Paralympic athlete’s, aside from many other accomplishments.
Heading up the funitel, my excitement to finally get to ski with Landon was at an all time high. The conditions were sub par, but rain or shine we were skiing Squaw for Landon’s first time. John pointed out some of his favorite runs off KT-22 that would have most people gripped just peering over the edge. Bill typically skis at Alpine, but if you ride at either mountain, you’ve probably seen these two ripping lines with speed and grace.
Our first run was up Gold Coast and our plan of attack was to hit up the tree runs off of Shirley. Heading over to Shirley, the off angled traverse got the best of Landon and sucked him down going switch on Gold Coast. The icy conditions were tough not to mention the low visibility. John, Bill, and a few of us were ahead, but met up with Landon and the rest of the guys at the top of the funitel after a scary ride down. The few days prior, Landon had been skiing spring slush, but didn’t have much experience with ice. Personally, I grew up in California and ice is not my friend. I can’t imagine learning how to sit ski in these conditions. When I say that Landon’s learning how to sit ski, I have to mention that he’s already been crushing top to bottom runs at Alpine and in the race coarse. According to Bill and John, Landon is right on track for the 2014 Olympics…he’s no first timer.
After a quick pep talk from his coaches, Landon was all in for another run despite his struggles with the ice. During run two Bill and John decided that Landon’s mounting point was too far forward, in fact it was 5cm forward from center. Bill assured Landon that the mounting point coupled with the ice were definitely not making things easier. The sit ski is like a boot. You have to get everything right and fit just perfect, but it’s a constant game of readjustments until you’re there. We were all getting pretty hungry anyways, so lunch was in order and a re-mount of Landon’s sit ski was necessary.
The plan was to head back up and try the new mounting point out, but the pissing rain and lightening had shut the funitel down. We hung out a bit longer, had some more cookies, and called it a day. Leaving Squaw that rainy day, I was all smiles and fresh with inspiration from Landon. His attitude, drive, and perseverance really showed through. Regardless of the many falls, head slams, and struggle with ice, Landon wasn’t going to let that get him down. He was stoked to be out there and humbly thanked everyone for joining him, but for us it was truly a pleasure. Big thanks to High Fives for giving Landon the opportunity to come to Tahoe and learn from the best not to mention buying Landon his first sit ski.