By Drew Prinster
Melanie is a former English teacher, current bi-skier, and future skydiver–but above all, she’s a lifetime adventurer. Her multiple sclerosis severely limits her motor control and speech abilities, but when she’s on the slopes and strapped into her bi-ski, she can go anywhere and inspire anyone.
Melanie tried her first bi-skiing escapade over five years ago when a family member from Estes convinced her to fly out to the Colorado mountains from her home in Chicago. The on-slope wind chill was a blistering -40°F, but even the arctic temperatures couldn’t dull that first day’s adrenaline rush. She was hooked.
Since then, Melanie and her husband Bob have resettled in Estes largely for the access to the Colorado ski slopes and Ignite’s quality instructors. Training was slow at first. She’d ski in intervals of 20 feet between instruction stops, but every 20 feet was 20 feet of freedom. Right away, Bob recognized Ignite as an outlet that “gave her options; she didn’t have to sit in her wheelchair, she didn’t have to be inside, she could actually participate in life.”
Many of Melanie’s fondest memories at Ignite are moments culminating from long-term growth, such as when she first tackled Mule Shoe, one of Eldora’s longest and steepest expert level runs. At other times, however, she’s just along the ride at the trustworthy hands of her longtime instructor Jason. During one of Eldora’s biggest snowfall years, for instance, Jason steered Melanie through moguls that Bob describes as “huge, probably four feet high, and it was like boom boom I could see their heads popping in and out of the bumps.” That exhilaration is what Melanie lives for.
“Melanie doesn’t like anything as much as she enjoys skiing,” Bob says. She usually starts thinking about it around July. She’s tried indoor skydiving and she’s looking into adaptive water skiing to satisfy her excitement craving in the warmer months, but it’s the consistency and care of the Ignite program that she values. She ends every day “grinning ear to ear,” Bob recalls with a hearty chuckle. And today is no different. As Bob lifts his wife from her sit-ski and cradles her thin frame, you can see it on Melanie’s face. A radiant smile, and two steady, gleaming eyes that are already looking forward to next time.