Saturday, March 25, 2023

Participation: Kicking Horse wedding

Riding the gondola at Kicking Horse Resort in
Golden, BC (Canada)

Many of my friends love skiing.  Some are so obsessed that they talk of nothing but snow reports as soon as the temperature drops below 50 degrees.  Several of them volunteer with the alpine ski program at Outdoors for All - an organization which offers outdoor adventures to people with disabilities.  It is through my own participation in this ski program that I re-discovered active outdoor life post-wheelchair, leading me to the discovery of other outdoor adaptive adventures and a re-definition of my self-identity.  It is also through this organization that I have met good friends and that I have been able to participate in the ski culture and its discussions prevalent in the Pacific Northwest.

Mountain top wedding at
Kicking Horse Resort

One of these ski-loving friends recently married another ski-loving person, and they aptly exchanged their wedding vows on the top of a 7700 foot mountain at Canada's Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.  

Chalets and lodges at 
Kicking Horse Resort
The mountain-top ceremony was followed by a reception in a chalet at the 3900 foot base.

The way from the gondola
to the wedding terrace

In order to reach the ceremony, guests rode up on the resort's gondola and crossed a swath of snow to reach the restaurant terrace.

In order to reach the reception, the majority of guests donned skis and followed the newly-married couple down the mountain to the reception in the chalet at the base.  About 50 people skied together for nearly 4000 feet down the catwalk and headwalls of the green runs.

I am overwhelmed by the amount of detailed planning that must have gone into this weekend, as well as by the number of people who showed up and and joined the ski procession down the mountain from the ceremony to the reception.  Although the "how" was vague to uncertain until the last minute, with help and creativity, I was able to participate in this amazing weekend.

Waiting for the gondola
on the Dynamique,
on top of the dolly
A major part of my participation was the equipment.  I rented a Dynamique sit ski from Outdoors for All in Seattle, and they included a dolly to transport it.  I transferred from my wheelchair to the sit ski at the lodge's main patio behind the locker room, from where Ted pushed me to the gondola.  At the gondola, the liftees helped me ski onto the dolly.  They then stopped the gondola temporarily, which allowed my friends to push and pull the dolly (with the ski and me on it) into a gondola car. At the top, the gondola was temporarily stopped again, and I was helped out of the gondola to the edge of the concrete (un)loading pad, from which I slid off of the dolly onto the snow.  Ted pushed me across the snowfield to the terrace, while the liftees sent the dolly back down to the base (a procedure they were obviously used to).  

Ted and I skiing down

I watched the ceremony from my ski, and afterward I joined the group for the ski down the mountain to the reception.  I went last, after the skiers and snowboarders, because I ski across the whole face, and because I anticipated falls (I hadn't really skied for years, due to the pandemic).  

Looking over the valley 
from the top
before the ski down

As with many situations, it takes a village.  The bride and groom checked with me about the wheelchair in several situations.  The staff at Kicking Horse -- especially the sales coordinator (Rachel) and the liftees --  were eager to help and to offer suggestions.  The wedding guests --both old friends and new -- held the sit ski, helped slide the ski onto the dolly, helped maneuver the dolly on and off of the gondola, blocked for me while skiing down, and helped to pick me up when I fell over (yes, I did that a few times).  A big thank you to all of them for their help.  

Posing with the bride
after the ceremony

Between the people and the equipment, I was able to participate in an amazing weekend and to feel like a part of the weekend, the festivities, the wedding, and the group.  

Watching the ceremony ...
from outside the terrace!

I can't overstate my gratitude for this feeling of participation and belonging.  It is, I know, not to be assumed or taken for granted, and I was fortunate to experience this confluence of people and opportunity.

I would, however, be remiss, to omit the fact that even in the height of inclusion, I felt like I was on the fringe.  We couldn't stay with the rest of the guests, because the on-mountain lodge was not accessible (no Act for Americans with Disabilities in Canada!), and because stairs prevented me from accessing the food and the restroom at the reception.  This is, in no way, to detract from the kindness and concern of the people involved.  It's just a fact of life for people with disabilities that is probably only noticed/felt by us.

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