The Adaptation of Tracy Ross

This is a recap of a much longer read, concerning the skiing exploits and adaptation of writer and skier Tracy Ross, presented in a news-like style.


According to an article published in Ski Magazine, one skier struggled in the transition needed to meet her goal of becoming a ski racer, as opposed to standard skiing practices. Specifically, she had chosen her debut event as the Summer Fun Nationals, as she knew the average age of competitors was nearly twice her age and should, therefore, present less of a challenge for her novice status. However, the conversion proved to be more challenging than she had originally anticipated, resulting in her need to nearly relearn the art of skiing all over again.

Several key aspects presented a challenge to the author of the article. Racers don’t just ski; they are experts at angulation, which allows them to take gates at a quicker and smoother rate. Involved in this is an ability to carve a turn, not skid through it. Average recreational skiers skid turns, as it is easier to master. However, racers need to carve through turns, using the edges on their skis to get the most speed for their output of energy.

A Ski Racer whipping the powder

Ski Racing can pose several physical challenges to new comers

On her first racing run with a trainer, the author was informed that her form was completely off to adapt her methods for a racing pursuit. The trainer informed her that her form was overly rigid, her turns were skidded and that she rotated her torso too much across the full line. For the next few months prior to the Summer Fun Nationals, the author worked to improve all of these facets of her form. She struggled most with the practice of carving, not skidding her turns. Eventually, a trainer introduced a series of drills involving the use of two poles to reprogram her body to carve through the turns as opposed to her default setting of skidding.

Regardless of her months of practice, she still felt unprepared on the morning of the race. Through her run, she felt positive things were going well; she experienced the feeling of her body moving in two parts that comes with angulation and managed to edge the turns and tuck in to the finish. However, despite the positive feeling she had during the run, she was surprised to discover that she finished fourth from last, finishing behind so many other skiers that were nearly twice her age. After feeling the temporary pull of disappointment, she realized that she had experienced a bright adrenaline rush and that the compulsion to live to race another day still lived within her; that was, in her opinion, far more important and valuable than the success of a fast finish time.

The Importance of Perseverance

Another story of resilience:

In March of 2007, Jeff Parelli suffered a car accident, in which a person pulled out in front of him. The injuries Parelli sustained resulted in a traumatic brain injury and complete paralysis of his left side.  For the first month, it was a struggle for Parelli to even dress himself, let alone to consider getting out of bed and skiing or hiking.  However, as soon as his daughter mentioned Parelli’s faithful pastime, it was the first time in a month that he sounded like his old self—able to remember facts and the identity of those who surrounded him far better than he had been able to up until that point.

Despite the myriad of injuries Parelli’s accident brought on, according to an Ski Magazine he had only two goals in mind in regards to his recovery; he wanted to ski and to hike at least one more time.  Over the course of seven years and including a combination of cognitive and physical therapy, Parelli was finally able to achieve his goal.  A wheelchair is needed daily for Parelli to maintain movement due to the complete paralysis on the left side.  However, he also has a full KAFO, which stands for a knee-ankle-foot orthesis; the full leg brace allows him to walk, hike and ski.

Jeff Parelli photo

Jeff Parelli, back on the trail.

His first trip through the snow was on an excursion to Mt. Snow in southern Vermont.  By this time, he had only had his KAFO for five months.  After the first run, he made some adaptations to the KAFO to keep the cold weather from causing it to lock; the device doing so would force Parelli to bail out, a very dangerous prospect for a skier with TBI that cannot suffer another head injury.  Parelli uses electrical tape, rubber jar grips and other various materials to help the cables bound to the hitches to the knee to keep the KAFO from locking in place.  Through these implementations, Parelli is able to ski at least twice a year for approximately three to four hours at a time.  Although he is forced to rest after each run, he is still able to engage in his favorite pastime, which, to Parelli, makes the whole expedition worth it.