Local skier aiming to compete in 2022 Paralympic Games
Steamboat Springs’ Paige Van Arsdale has been on a trajectory bound for the Paralympics for years.
With about six months until the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, Van Arsdale is heading to Chile in September for a month of training. Her adaptive ski team, based out of Park City, Utah, was invited by a Chilean team to train and compete in sanctioned Paralympic events, which will help her land a spot on Team USA.
The trip to Chile is still up in the air, due to the pandemic and strict border regulations. If it doesn’t take place in September, it could be pushed back a month, but Van Arsdale is hopeful.
“That’s the one opportunity to get on the Paralympic team or try to get a spot on the Paralympic team if possible,” Van Arsdale said.
If all goes well, the U.S. National team will be in attendance, but they are making backup plans in case Chile falls through. Without the national team there, the training and the sanctioned races won’t have the same caliber.
Van Arsdale, 21, is a standing skier, one of three categories in Paralympic skiing. There are also sitting skiers and visually impaired skiers. Van Arsdale stands, but her cerebral palsy challenges her reaction time and stability.
She trains with the National Ability Center team based out of Park City but also spends time skiing at Steamboat Resort and with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. If she makes a Paralympic team in 2022 or 2026, she would be one of the first Paralympians from Steamboat Springs.
“I think it would be cool to go to a country and try to learn the culture of the people and meet more friends in that area,” Van Arsdale said.
Ally Kunkel, who was raised in Wisconsin, spent a couple years in Steamboat before qualifying for the 2018 Paralympic Team and competing in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
In order to qualify for the Olympic team, Van Arsdale has to reach a certain point threshold, the lower the better. The qualifying threshold for the National Team is in the mid 200-range, and qualifying for the Paralympics is slightly easier. Right now, in standing slalom, Van Arsdale has 401.4 points. She’s not out of the running, but competition is tight. In order to get her points down, she has to do well in competitive races.
“Paige is quite a ways away from qualifying for the team,” said Kevin Kardine, U.S. Para-Alpine head coach. “But nothing’s unheard of at this point.”
The U.S. Paralympic Alpine ski team has five available slots for women, including all three categories. Those who participate in more than one discipline are favored to go, since they bring more to the team.
As of last winter, Van Arsdale competed in slalom and giant slalom. She’s hoping to purchase super g skis so she can race in another discipline and improve her chances, but that will take more funding.
Van Arsdale is not sponsored by anyone and, since she’s not on the national team, doesn’t receive consistent financial support. She applies for grants from the Challenged Athletes Foundation, but the $1,000 she receives for training or equipment dries up quickly.
Van Arsdale is asking for donations to help her go to Chile, purchase super g skis and reach her dream. People can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to find how they can contribute.
In order to improve her explosiveness, balance and strength, Van Arsdale has been hard at work. She has the Charge running app and uses another app to aid her through yoga, core workouts and stretches, helping her be more mindful and connect with her body. The app also helps her monitor her diet and ensure she’s taking in the best food to fuel all her workouts.
She occasionally works with Jon Lujan, a Paralympian out of Denver. He has helped Paige reach new highs in her sport.
Last winter, that showed. At Paralympic Nationals in Winter Park, she finished third in giant slalom and fourth in slalom. At three Nor-Am races over January and February, she earned more top finishes, including a gold in slalom in Aspen and a bronze in giant slalom in Park City.
“Last winter was a good winter,” Van Arsdale said, especially in comparison to her last few winters.
In 2017, she suffered a concussion while training for the 2018 Winter Games. After the accident, she was diagnosed with bipolar depression.
In late 2020, she lost a friend. She and much of Steamboat mourned after Caroline Lupori died in a skiing accident. During 2021 nationals, Van Arsdale kept a photo of Lupori in her jacket pocket, remembering her friend while carrying her spirit and love for skiing with her.
“She was looking over you,” Paige’s mom told her. “It seemed like it.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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I have been skiing about 15 years now, learning to Nordic ski in gym class in elementary school and grew up Alpine skiing at Okemo Mountain in my home state of Vermont. I’m by no means a daredevil but I am comfortable on Alpine skis and my ability to get around in them.