Training Camp in Chile (1/2 Valle Nevado)

What an amazing trip to South America! The past two weeks the US Paralympic Alpine National Team has been getting in some early season training in Chile. We visited two resorts, Valle Nevado, and Portillo.  The were both absolutely amazing, but let me start at the beginnig.

At the end of the season last year I had successfully, for the first time in my ski career, kept my skis for the whole season. This was also the first season I used Head Skis. They are a much stiffer ski from the ones I was previously using and as results would show, I had my best season so far. With the new season comes new skis and mid August seemed like a good time to buy. As I learned from all my teammates, order your skis at the end of the season and don't expect them in the mail until the new season starts. Unfortunately, I ended up only having Giant Slalom skis to take with me to Chile. On the bright side, it made my ski bag very light. Generally, I would travel with four pairs of skis. 

The flight was very nice. I flew from San Diego to Houston then the 12 hour leg from Houston to Santiago, Chile. Because of some complications, I ended up being a day behind the rest of my team. Luckily I wasn't the only one. My friend Andrew Kurka ended up on the same flight as me. Upon landing we had a van driver ans his significant other that took us to Valle Nevado to meet up with the rest of the team.

This is the road to Portillo, but you get the idea. https://youtu.be/_ftUMpv7xnY

Uploaded by andy billington on 2016-07-30.

I learned that the Andes Mountains are jutting rock faces that explode straight out of the earth and soar at 17,783 feet above sea level. (Valle Nevado is a ski resort located on the El Plomo foothills in the Andes Mountains, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valle_Nevado)) This makes for spectacular cliff faces and ridiculous waterfalls. It also makes getting to this awesome ski resort a switchback road travel worthy of BBC's Top Gear sports cars.

Valle Nevado had a lot of great land area to ski. We had training sessions every morning from 8:00 am to noon. The snow was fairly solidly packed (not quite bulletproof), and wind buffeted against us. These conditions are great for training because the snow will hold up to multiple runs without breaking down and without large ruts forming. Valle Nevado has a couple high speed lifts but all the best terrain can only be reached by palma lifts. A palma lift is kind of like a rope tow that has disks you sit on and it pulls you up the hill. Being in a monoski makes this a little difficult. The way we adapt this is by attaching a rope loop to the front of our rigs and throwing it over the disk to let it pull us to the top of the run.

The hotel we stayed at was right at the ski hill and had beautiful views all the way down the valley up to the mountain peaks and across a giant canyon. People from all over South America come to Valle Nevado to sight-see and play in the snow. I met people from Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, and of course, Chile. Since this is one of the best destination ski slopes in Chile, or in the entire southern hemisphere for that matter, there were also teams training from Canada, Switzerland, Japan, the U.S., and a few others. It was great to see some of my foreign friends from the International Paralympic Committee Alpine Skiing World Cup Circuit hanging out and training at the same venue we were at. 

Well, I think I've gone on enough about Valle Nevado and this post is getting a little wordy so I will say good-bye for now and leave the second half of the trip, Portillo, for another day. Also, I am now working with one of my oldest friends, Seth, on my social media presence and finding sponsors. I would unofficially call him my manager. I think this is going to be great partnership to help get me on track and everyone else more in the know on my adventures and skiing career. Check out my new Facebook Fan page:  https://www.facebook.com/joshthemonoskier

Topsy-turvey Switcheroo

 Adam, Kimi, Darci, Sam, Josh. Tim is taking the picture

Adam, Kimi, Darci, Sam, Josh. Tim is taking the picture

To con Josh into doing my homework, I told him I would write his newest blog. So, I put on my brightest shirt and some basketball shorts, rolled around in the zebra stripped wheelchair to channel my inner Josh the Monoskier. Of course, I only asked Josh to do one small assignment for me out of a butt load so he's getting the better deal out of this. Here's what's been going on since we moved down to San Diego the day of my 32nd birthday...(he wouldn't mention that we spent my birthday with a moving van and the Nissan Xterra, would he.) Anyways, since we've been down here we have hung out with some old friends.

 Mike and Stacy Atkinson with 6 out of their 8 kids with spouses

Mike and Stacy Atkinson with 6 out of their 8 kids with spouses

IMG_0598.JPG

We started going back to Mission Valley Church of the Nazarene and are meeting a lot of great new people. We're involved in two small groups (we are the oldest people in one and the youngest in the other) and we help serve dinner to all of the small groups that meet at the church on Wednesday nights. We also moved down here in time for the church's 100 year anniversary celebration. Which was a dinner cruise! It was  great. Josh spent part of that night enjoying the cruise with his parents on Skype.

While Josh was traveling to the southern hemisphere and winning medals in snowy New Zealand, I started school at Point Loma Nazarene University. If anyone tells you that they enjoy school now that they're older, they're lying. I didn't like school before and age isn't a magical pill that makes you all of a sudden enjoy it. As you get older some may get desperate enough to convince themselves that they like it, but trust me, I certainly don't.

 The Greek. Where I'll be graduating in hopefully a year and a half.

The Greek. Where I'll be graduating in hopefully a year and a half.

My friend Vanessa came down to visit for a few days and it was great. We went to SeaWorld and fed fish to other fish and stuff: manta rays, sea lions, kids who's parents weren't looking...

Josh has also become a model for the foot company College Park. Here he is showing off their new stubby feet called "side kicks".

Doctor Who has also started it's 9th season and since we have On Demand for a few months, I'm able to keep up with it fairly well. It's fantastic!

Speaking of nerding out, our most recent trip was up to Yakima for their very first Comi-Con. Josh was one of the speakers! Even better was all of the great cosplays we saw. I'm rubbish at pictures. There's much better ones on their website and Facebook page for Central City Comic Con. Check them out and see what you missed!

 Click on the picture to go to the Central City Comic-Con Facebook page

Click on the picture to go to the Central City Comic-Con Facebook page

There are a few more things that are going to happen before Josh leaves me for six month (Brian's wedding, new prosthetics, his dad coming down to help him move) but I'll leave you all guessing how those things go for his next blog coming to computers near you sometime in the future. :-)

New Zealand Games

New Zealand was an incredible experience. At the end of July I was invited to attend the New Zealand Winter Games with the U.S. National Adaptive Ski Team. I already knew most of the athletes on the team from racing against them in various events in the Unites States and Canada, but this was an opportunity to train with them, race in the southern hemisphere, and show what skills I have.

mountain tops NZ.jpg

The first four days on snow where in a resort north-east of Queenstown call Cardrona. It offered some great training slopes and was the slope for many of the extreme competitions like slope style, big air, and half pipe. While training, or rather wile riding the lift, I got to watch some of the competition. The Winter Games NZ are a lot like our X-games. The snow conditions were amazing, except for one day. On that day the mountain had to shut down due to the weather conditions. The next morning there was a good two to three inches of fresh powder. The part that sucks about being a pro racer is that training comes first. This being said, even though we were the first people on the mountain, we were not able to run any of the sweet powder lines that were available. Through the day I watched as all the fresh stuff got tracked out and I longed to grab a fat ski and rip it up too. Oh well, I was skiing in July.

After a day of rest, we changed mountains to Coronet which is located right outside Queenstown. It is truly indescribable to be at 3,894 feet and having an unobstructed view of the city and lake Wakatipu as the sun comes up over the horizon. At Coronet we had four races, Winter Games NZ slalom and giant slalom, and New Zealand Nationals slalom and giant slalom. Overall, I feel like I performed well and won the silver in the GS Winter Games NZ.

Although it was a short time away, it is always nice coming home. I think the hardest part is coming back to a heat wave after being in winter weather for ten days. I truly like it colder.

Move to San Diego

leftturn

As always life keeps moving forward.  The last six weeks have been a rush of events starting with our summer training camp at Mt. Hood. This is my fourth year going to Hood with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club (AVSC) Adaptive program and things have changed so much since then. I remember having such a tough time my first year and thinking there was no way I would get accepted on the development program. Of all the people there I felt like I was the worst. As time has proven, I am doing well on the development team and working my way to the top monoskier in the world.  Also, the amount of snow, or lack of, was shocking this year with far less snow than I have ever seen on Mt. Hood. The week I spent training didn't go without its setbacks. On the second day of slalom training, the last day we were there, during the first run of the day I was warming up with some dynamic turn shape drills when my ski binding released and I was seperated from my ski.  The early morning run was an ice groomer at about a 35 degree pitch. I couldn't self arrest or stop myself from sliding all the way down the glacier, across a cat track, and off a 15 foot cliff.  I landed on my back, narrowly missing a tool shed and a snowboard box feature. Proof that God is looking out for me, I skied away with a fat lip, bloody nose and a possibly broken rib (I never got it checked out).  

ProWest Fabrication

Before I move on any farther, I want to give a big thank you to ProWest fabrication for building me a new upper frame on my monoski.  It worked amazing and felt very solid on the turns. These guys helped design, fabricate, and weld my monoski into a totally new and custom race machine. Thank you for all the donated time, hard work, and material.  If you ever need help fabricating something out of metal, ProWest is the place to go!

 

FCA Baskertball

A couple weeks later, I had the great pleasure of working with elementary kids in East Valley, Yakima during a summer basketball camp. This camp was ran by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and sponsored by Sam's church, New Hope Community Church of the Nazarene. During the two, two day camps, I had opportunities to minister to the children and give my testimony. Over 30 kid committed their lives to christ during these camps.  We also had a great time shooting hoops and learning awesome basketball skills. 

Basketball camp ended on Thursday then Sunday the 19th Sam and I made our move to San Diego. We moved into a great little cottage at Freedom Station which is funded by Warrior Foundation. They have been so great in our transition and the place we moved into came fully furnished; bed, couch, tv, dishes, even food in the fridge. Now most of our stuff that goes in the house is shoved into a 10 X 20ft storage unit.  Soon we will move again, but this time we will be living in the condo we bought three years ago. It will be nice to finally live in a house we own.

 

Gold Gold and Gold

Just a quick update on things going on in my life.  The last race at Winter Park was a very successful event for me.  The first day during giant slalom I came out of my binding on the first of two runs.  This would make the third GS race in a row that I haven't completed due to gear malfunction.  After a frustrating first day I came ready to finish (not race) for the super combined.  Truth be told, I had some trouble coming down the hill.  There were definitely places in the course that I know I could have done better, including coming over a blind roller to low and having to make a quick cut in the snow to correct my line, inadvertently also white washing some of the race officials and coaches.

Amazingly my time told a different story; I was in first.  To complete the super combined race, immediately after the super-g run you must complete a slalom run.  I ran the slalom course and had a really good feeling about that race.  In the end I received my first gold medal in super-G then my second gold medal the same day for super combined. The last day of races I took to the hill with a refreshed valor and put down a really great time for super-g again, this time qualifying for World Cup and World Nationals!!! 

X-Games

It's Official!!!! Below is the e-mail I received today.

JOSH ELLIOTT

Congratulations! You have been invited to participate in X Games Aspen 2015. X Games will be held at Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen, CO January 22 – 25, 2015.

To accept this invitation, please complete the online registration form by following the instructions below.

We are thrilled to be welcoming new athletes, as well as returning competitor’s, that have been an integral part of our family through the years. Thank you for your continued support in making X Games the world's premier action sports competition.

Sincerely,

ESPN X GAMES Competitions Team

Movie Review by Sam Elliott

The Best of Men

Writer: Lucy Gannon

Director: Tim Whitby

Starring: Eddie Marsan (Inspector Lestrade next to Robet Downey Jr's "Sherlock Holmes" and one of the group of five in "The World's End"

 George MacKay (Curly in 2003's Peter Pan)

I pushed play expecting to see an opening of gruesome war scenes and a young man lying in a trench calling for help unable to move with explosions going off everywhere. Surprisingly it started with a young couple dancing to happy music in a field after a picnic. This movie revolves around Dr. Ludwig Guttmann (Eddie Marsan), a Jewish/German doctor who immigrates to England during WWII  and is assigned to the spinal ward where he finds a group of young men who were left for dead because they were diagnosed to never walk again. They were given their own ward with minimal supplies, sedated, and accruing bed sores because they weren't being moved for so long. Most of them moaning, "Just let me die," "I'll never be worth anything," and "I can't do anything." Guttmann comes in and starts treating them like people, not invalids. "Sports pulled me out of the evil thoughts and made me realize that I'm awesome" (Authors choice of words). I've heard many wounded say a phrase like this, even today. Well, they can thank the men portrayed in this movie for the sports created and adapted for disabled. I didn't start crying (I'm a movie crier) until the ending credits, showing videos of the timeline of the Paralympics, from the first games up until the 2012 Paralympics. I hate using the word inspirational, so I'm not going to say it, but I will find another word to describe my feelings while watching this movie. These men had to push through even more boundaries then what they would have to today, so I will use the wonderful word-Courageous.

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I'm always so excited for the last week of October and the first week of November. Reasons why:

Apple cider! 

On Saturday we had a HUGE apple cider making party at my parents house. Even though it was raining we lit up the fire pit, and hung out for six hours. Most of my closest friends and family were there. Sam made me my favorite; a pumpkin pie from scratch! My aunt even made a Yoda out of an apple.

2014 Josh 33  Apple Cider Birthday (04) (Medium).JPG

It's my birthday! I turned 33 on October 30th. Sam and I didn't do too much. We made biscuits and gravy for my in-laws, got the oil changed on the Solstice, Sam  detailed the inside of the Xterra and then, after Sam got back from small group, we fell asleep watching a movie on our couch.

Yeah, we're old.

 

Halloween! I love passing out candy for Halloween. If we don't do Trunk-or-Treat with the NHCC church, I'm the guy that gives out full size candy bars to the kids. This year Sam and I did a Hobbit's home as our trunk decoration. Sam shape shifted into a gorgeous Gandolf. At Trunk-or-Treat we saw 15 Elsa's, 3 Anna's, 8 Spiderman's and 6 Captain America's. Over 500 kids showed up. It was AWESOME! 

  Lastly, bittersweet goodbyes and exciting hellos. As I leave my wife and home I travel to Aspen to begin training for the winter season. I get to see my teammates again! My roommates this year are; blind guy Brian Follett, monoskier Todd Moran and fellow jarhead Trey Humphrey. So stay tuned for more about them later.

End of the season fun!

The race season is over but the snow is still coming down.  The US tech nationals were held in Park City, Utah last week and I won my first bronze metal in the giant slalom.  Now its time to relax and just play. I love this sport and everything it has to offer.  

Congrats to my Teammates!

The nominations for alpine skiing in the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi came out today. Here's who will be representing my team, their websites so you can learn more about them and pictures of their faces so you can point them out to your friends and family during the opening ceremonies on March 7th!

 Heath Calhoun

Heath Calhoun

Heath Calhoun, US Army, Bi-lateral above knee. This is his second Paralympics. He was the flag bearer for the 2010 games.

www.heathcalhoun.com

 Chris Devlin-Young

Chris Devlin-Young

Chris Devlin-Young, US Coast Guard, spinal cord injury. This is his 5th Paralympics.

http://www.gocdy.com/

 Jon Lujan

Jon Lujan

John Lujan, fellow Marine, spinal cord injury. This is his 1st Paralympics.

https://www.facebook.com/Broncofan44

 Joel Hunt

Joel Hunt

Joel Hunt, US Army, traumatic brain injury.  This is his first Paralympics. (and no, Barrett his service dog will not be skiing with him although he's always at the finish line cheering on Joel)

https://www.facebook.com/hunt12b98?fref=ts

 Andrew Kurka

Andrew Kurka

Andrew Kurka, civilian, spinal cord injury. This is his 1st Paralympics (he's just a baby).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLcVZFq8CXE (a must watch!)

http://andrewkurka.wordpress.com/

 

 Tyler Walker

Tyler Walker

Tyler Walker, civilian. This is his 3rd Paralympics.

http://tylerwalker.org/

 Melanie Schwartz

Melanie Schwartz

Melanie Schwartz, Canadian civilian, single leg below knee. This is her 2nd time at the Paralympics but the first time for the USA. She went before for Canada.

http://elipse.ca/melanie/

Special Olympics vs Paralympic

As the Olympic season draws nearer many people brag about me and how I'm working my way up to the Paralympics in 2018. From that saying, many people picture me in the Special Olympics. No. There are many differences between the two and I'm going to teach them to you.

First off, the athletes. It the Special Olympics you need to be at least 8 years old with a an intellectual disability, such as severe autism, down syndrome or any cognitive delay. The Paralympians have physical disabilities; dwarfism, amputations, paralysis, etc.

Second is qualifying. Anyone with a mental disability can join the Special Olympics. They don't turn away anyone since it is all about personal achievement. Everybody's a winner. In the Paralympics you need to qualify, just like the regular Olympians. And qualifying is tough, let me tell you. The people who were born with their disabilities (looking at you Mel Schwartz) have an advantage in that they can be training since birth, where as people like me and Anthony Redetic didn't qualify until later in life.

Third, and the last thing for this post, is the venue. The next World Special Olympics will be held in 2015 in Las Angeles. In 2011 they were held in Greece and in 1993 they were held in Austria (these are just samplings of when and where they were held and in no way a complete list). Since 1988 in Seoul, Korea the Paralympics have been held in the same facility, using the same courses directly after the main Olympics. This year they are held in Sochi, Russia March 7th till the 16th. Next Summer Paralympics will be held in Rio, Brazil.

This is all for this post. Come back as I inform you more about the Paralympics and my road to Korea!

As The Summer Comes To An End

As the summer comes to a close I can sit back and reflect on the summer past.  Did I accomplish the things I have set out to do?  Am I happy with the use of this summer?  Would I change anything? 

 

First off I have to say that this was an incredibly busy summer.  Comically now that I am retired from the Marine Corps I feel busier than ever.  From Saturday and Wednesday markets with my wife, to VA appointments and traveling with friends, there hasn't been a week that has gone by without any activity.  I was under the assumption that once a person retires from a job its all fishing and ice tea on the front porch.  For this guy it was routine and scheduling that made this summer a success. Swimming every morning from 7 to 8 got me out of bed at a good time.  Cross fit from 1030 to 1130 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday built the muscle and endurance for anything life could throw at me.  And yoga for flexibility that I said I would focus on to complete this trifecta......I never really did the yoga. 

 

As for the business side of things, this summer was well spent building the website you may be viewing right now.  Josh the Mono-skier is an official limited liability corporation with great employees (me) and a wonderful supervisor (myself), but I'm not so sure about that owner ( I ).  My business account is all set up and a non-profit account is also set up for me to receive donations to help advance me to the Para-Olympics.  At this time I have two official sponsors; Liberty Bottle Works, and Del Monte Canning Co.  It has been a fun experience and true pleasure to work with these companies and understand their convictions.  Last on the business side of things are my awesome business cards that Lightning Graphics helped me create.  I am very proud of them and enjoy handing them out to everyone I meet. 

 

On my business card it states that I have two professions.  The first is professional monoskier, obviously, and second is inspirational speaker.  This summer I spoke at TEDx Yakima.  T.E.D. "Ideas worth spreading".  I have three speaking engagements left before I leave for Aspen. 

 

In the end, this summer was a great success.  I am very happy with how I look and feel physically as well as how smoothly everything came together with my new business.  I feel prepared for the season to come and am focused on becoming the best racer I can be.

 

Thank you so much for you love and support.  See you on the slope! 

 

Summer Cross Training

In order to prepare for the next season I have been focusing on three key conditioning activities that I believe will make me a competitor to be feared this coming ski season.

First of the three is Cross Fit.  This will improve my strength.

 

  This picture was taken by John Gooding at Invictus CrossFit San Diego

 This picture was taken by John Gooding at Invictus CrossFit San Diego

man_yoga_pose[1].jpg

The second is Yoga. I don't have a picture of me doing yoga however, once I get one I will add it here and delete this sentence. I believe yoga will help my flexibility on the mountain and minimize injuries.

Third and finally for my endurance conditioning I have been swimming as usual.  This is the one sport I have been doing the longest.  I first began swimming when I was seven years old.  I was most competitive my freshman year of high school when I was in the pool three times a day for no less than an hour each session.  After joining the Marine Corps I became a water safety swimmer, and now, after my injury, I continue to swim to keep up my conditioning. 

 

 Mexico Carmavel cruse with Sam Elliott. Photo taken by Renee Slocumb

Mexico Carmavel cruse with Sam Elliott. Photo taken by Renee Slocumb