Paralympian Completes First Adaptive Descent of Silverton

Alana Nichols didn't let a tragic accident keep her away from mountains she loves

This week, the Durango Herald reported on major badass and paralympian Alana Nichols, who just completed the first adaptive ski descent of Silverton Mountain. The Farmington, New Mexico, native grew up snowboarding in the San Juans, but was paralyzed from the waist down in 2000 after landing on a rock during a backflip attempt in the backcountry.

Two-time Paralympic basketball player/alpine skier Alana Nichols is the first adaptive skier to make a descent down Silverton Mountain. PHOTO: Courtesy of Alana Nichols
Two-time Paralympic basketball player/alpine skier Alana Nichols is the first adaptive skier to make a descent down Silverton Mountain. PHOTO: Courtesy of Alana Nichols

After completing a program with the Adaptive Sports Association at Purgatory Resort, Nichols went on to compete in two sports in the paralympics—wheelchair basketball and alpine skiing. She medaled in both the winter and summer paralympic games—a first for an American woman—and continues to make history in adaptive sports today.

Her latest feat, descending Silverton, pitted a woman on a sit-ski against some of the most challenging resort terrain in the United States. However, after seeing her incredible commitment to athletic achievement in spite of her disability, it’s clear Silverton didn’t stand a chance at stopping Nichols. In an interview with the Durango Herald, Nichols explained why Silverton had been a lifelong goal—even prior to her injury.

“I feel at home every time I come back here. The San Juan Mountains have been a blessing for me through and through. I learned how to snowboard at Purgatory and then broke my back and relearned how to sit-ski at Purgatory. This area of the country has taken parts of me and given them back. All-in-all, I’m incredibly blessed by those mountains, and feel even more connected to them now that I’ve skied Silverton.”

With a crew of five good friends, Nichols mono-skied Liftline, Tiger No. 2, and No. 3 chutes in deep, choppy snow. The owner of Silverton Ski & Bike, Todd Bove, was on the mountain with Nichols and told the Herald, “Alana has such a positive energy and is an extremely hard worker. Those two traits make for the best type of ski partner. There was not even a second where the whole group wasn’t smiling.”

So, what’s next for Nichols? She’s prepping for her fifth paralympic games. This time, she’ll be in a paracanoe, and likely as unstoppable as ever.

Read the full article here.