John F. Russell: Alyessa proves that skiing is about smiles, not results |

John F. Russell: Alyessa proves that skiing is about smiles, not results

— It's easy in a ski town like Steamboat Springs to forget that the joy that comes from skiing reaches beyond ability, talent and physical limitations. The joy that comes from skiing has nothing to do with how fast you can ski, the color of the run or the clothing you wear.

Our town has a long history of producing Olympic-caliber athletes who represent the best in Alpine, Nordic and freestyle skiing. Our town is the home of Olympic snowboarders and free skiers who find themselves on the pages of the most-read skiing magazines. These athletes have set a standard that most snowboarders and skiers, including myself, will never live up to.

But lucky for us, our ability has almost nothing to do with enjoying the sports that require us to slide down steep slopes. The smile on most of the skiers faces that I know has nothing to do with results, or how cool they happen to look on a pair of skis.

Last week, I had the chance to ski with Alyessa Yeagher.

Like most of us who live here, she will never be an Olympic champion, and she won't be on the World Cup circuit. Chances are, she will never compete in an international ski race or end up on the pages of Powder launching off of a cliff.

She understands better than most that those things really don't matter.

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Her love of skiing was evident from the first moment I met her. It didn't matter that she was a Horizons Specialized Services client or that she needed help getting into a sit ski at the bottom of Steamboat Ski Area and needed guides to help navigate the slopes.

The huge smile on her face never faded as she made her way around the green ski runs. Aylessa has been faced with limitations her whole life, but on the ski slopes, those limitations don't seem as imposing. They can't stop the broad smile that graces her face.

That day, she shared all the same joys, the same thrills, the same excitement that every skier feels each time they buckle up their boots and step into their skis.

That's the really cool thing about the programs offered by Horizons and STARS. Sure, they understand that their clients have limitations, but they work hard to find ways to expand their client's experiences. They work hard to put smiles on their faces like the one I saw on Alyessa's last week.

I have to admit that there are times when I forget that the joy that comes from skiing has nothing to do with a person's ability or their talent.

Luckily, I have Alyessa's smile to remind me that skiing and life is about a lot more than results. It's about getting out there and finding the experiences that put smiles on our faces. I hope to see you on the slopes.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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