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Paralympic dreams at the Hartford Ski Spectacular

Eric Byerly likes hanging out with his friends, playing video games and alpine skiing. You could say he’s just like any other 17 year-old, but that would be selling him short. Eric Byerly has accomplished more than most could hope to do in a lifetime.

Eric suffered a debilitating spinal cord injury – one doctors still can’t fully explain – that left Eric without the use of his legs, hands and arms. That was back in April of 2014, and since then, he has worked tirelessly to regain movement. Not only has he learned how to walk again, this ambitious teenager has learned to ski again. He’s now in a top division for his handicap and age, and just placed first in the Hartford Ski Spectacular Level I Race. Eric tells me he is very excited to re-unite with friends at the HSS in Breckenridge, CO, and make new friends through something he loves most –skiing. Eric tells me being around new and old friends who also have a disability make life seem a little more normal.

The Hartford Ski Spectacular is hosted by Disabled Sports USA and is one of the nation’s largest winter sports festivals for people with disabilities. More than 800 athletes register annually, as the program hosts ski and snowboard lessons, Nordic skiing, as well as free clinics in Nordic skiing, biathlon, curling, and sled hockey. The weeklong event is a great opportunity to connect with other athletes and learn new skills. The race-training segment prepares athletes like Eric for national and international competitions.

Eric is hopeful to qualify for a spot in the winter Paralympics; something he says wouldn’t be possible if he hadn’t suffered his spinal cord injury. He definitely has found a silver lining in his disability, and looks forward to his budding ski career.

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