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Q and A with Paralympic Skier Tyler Walker

Living in Colorado Springs has so many perks! One of those is being so close to the Olympic Training Center. You never know who is going to be in our fine city or training out on our trails! One of those trails being the Manitou Springs Incline. I've had the pleasure of meeting some truly inspiring individuals out there and recently, a video of this outstanding Paralympian was posted on my Facebook page and I watched in amazement as this young man climbed the Manitou Springs Incline, on his hands.

After watching this, (and crying a little bit...) I knew right away this was someone I had to talk to, and share his inspiring story with our fans!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are/what you do, and how you became a Paralympian.

I grew up in Franconia, NH. I was born with lumbar sacral agenesis, which means I was born without lumbar vertebrae. Due to that, the muscle in my legs did not develop enough to be of practical use. To make it easier to move around, my legs were amputated at the knee when I was 4. I grew up in front of Cannon Mountain, my local ski area at home, and skiing was always an interest to me. Over the years I learned how to ski at several local adaptive skiing programs and eventually got involved in ski racing, which I found particularly engaging. After several years of intense training I qualified for the US Paralympic Ski Team when I was 17. I have been on the team ever since, competing very successfully on the World Cup circuit and qualifying for the last two Paralympic games in Italy and Canada. I also completed a degree in geography and international affairs from the University of New Hampshire during this time. Now I am a full-time ski racer and I currently live in Aspen, CO during the winter and at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs during the summer.

How long have you been a Paralympian? What are your next steps? Can we help you get there?

I have competed in the last two paralympics which were in Torino, Italy in 2006 and Vancouver, Canada in 2010. My next immediate goal is to compete at the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. I am fairly confident in qualifying for these next games, but I am really focusing on being able to put everything together into my best performance when I get there. To help me get there, I need to train a lot more, get in much better shape, and make sure I have the resources to just be able to focus on training and competing. I really want to see if I can train my body to be able to hike more efficiently, and to do that I need to hike more. Also, I am always looking for individuals or companies to sponsor me. Skiing is a very expensive sport but I also have a unique and powerful way to advertise.

Regarding the Incline, What first gave you the idea to do it? How long did it take you? Was it your first time? Do you have plans to try it again? What advice do you have for someone that is nervous about trying it?

The incline was something I always wanted to do since I heard about it a few years ago. I stare at it every morning on my way to the gym, and I was curious to see if my body could handle it. Arms are not designed to be hiked on, and the experience is often quite grueling, so I wasn't sure. One day I just decided that it needed to be climbed, so I called some friends up (the girls in the video) and convinced them to hike with me. This was my first time hiking the incline and it took a while. At the steepest part I could only do about 10 steps at a time and my arms would be burning really bad, so I had to rest. I didn't pop up there like a gazelle, but my friends and I kept each other entertained and we weren't looking to break any records, but rather to just have a good time. I would like to try it again, but after I have been in the gym for a bit longer. I don't know yet when I will try it again. As far as advice, don't make it a race. Enjoy the experience. 
 

Tyler with friends Julie Hill and Kelly Casebere at the top!

If you are as inspired as I am, check out Tyler's website at  www.tylerwalker.org. His Facebook page is facebook.com/skier.walker and twitter is @tbone_walker. You can find more ways to support his efforts here.

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