Patrick Parnell, 18, left and Alex Tomaszewski, 17, stand with their ski coach and boss, AbilityPLUS, following the AbilityPLUS alpine ski race at Mount Snow, Sunday. Parnell is a member of U.S. Paralympic ski team and Tomaszewski, who s on the development team, hopes to join him soon. Each of the teenage boys had to have part of a leg amputated at birth but despite that have become amazing skiers, said. (Josh Stilts/Reformer)
Monday January 23, 2012
DOVER -- Patrick Parnell learned to ski at about 10 years old along the slopes of Mount Snow, but what was different for him was how.
At birth, Parnell, now 18, of New London, N.H., had to have most of his left leg amputated, meaning he had to learn how to carve down the mountain on just one ski.
But that didn't deter Parnell's passion for powder.
"I was born with one leg so balance wasn't an issue for me," he said.
Even at a young age Parnell was a gifted skier and took to the snow easily, using his one ski and poles that each had a ski attached to their ends.
He became such a good skier that he recently was asked to join the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team and will be competing in three events this March at the World Cup in Winter Park, Colo.
AbilityPLUS, executive director of programs for AbilityPLUS, an agency that provides athletic and recreational opportunities for persons with physical and developmental disabilities, helped teach Parnell how to ski.
Seeing him grow, not just as a skier, but as a young man, brought tears to her eyes.
"It's hard to put into words just how proud I am," she said.
Parnell and one of his best friends, 17-year-old Alex Tomaszewski, of Wells, Maine, who also had to have a leg amputated at birth, now help to teach others how to ski at AbilityPLUS' location on Mount Snow.
Tomaszewski had to have part of his right leg amputated but it was below the knee, which allows
him to use two skis, he said. He recently joined the U.S. Paralympic development team and hopes to race with Parnell soon.
They both said skiing is the only time when they truly feel complete.
"It's freeing," Tomaszewski said. "You don't have anyone telling you what you can and can't do. We have total control of where we go and how fast."
, who has worked in the adaptive sports field for 35 years, said when she watches the two boys race she feels like she's right there with them.
"If you ever watch me at the bottom of the track on race day I'm doing the course with them," she said as she demonstrated carving down the slopes. "I'm holding my breath until they finish and then I'm screaming as loud as anyone."
Over the weekend AbilityPLUS held a learn-to-ski race camp for Paralympic hopefuls and soldiers wounded in battle. On Sunday, competitors got two runs at a course built along Charley's Chase at Mount Snow.
The open Giant Slalom course was set for entry-level racers who wanted to compete in either the Diana Golden Division, for athletes with physical disabilities, or the Mills Cup Division, for athletes with non-physical, cognitive disabilities.
For more than 15 years AbilityPLUS has helped to provide participants, their families and friends with various sports and recreation activities, said.
There is also a program for military members called AbilityPLUS Soldiers For Soldiers, which serves injured service men and women who have suffered various physical injuries and or any form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Brent Cole, of Nashua, N.H., spent 18 years in the Air Force working with electronic countermeasures until the radiation he needed to fight a cancer that developed near the base of his spine destroyed the blood vessels and eventually left him paralyzed below the waist.
Although the deterioration was over several years, Cole said it wasn't until he found sports that he could do from his wheelchair that he found hope and passion.
"I'd hit the low of the lows," he said. "When I found sports my whole world opened up."
Initially Cole began hand-cycling and cross-country skiing and when he discovered he could go downhill skiing roughly two years ago, he's been looking for every opportunity possible, he said.
Cole, who finished second in the Diana Golden Division, said he's looking forward to this new adventure.
For more information about any of these programs, visit www.abilityplus.org.
Josh Stilts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.