Ty Smith talks with The Independence Center about his adaptive ski experience with the Spinal Cord Injury group.

Ty Smith never slowed down as an active young adult in his early twenties. Then in November of 2011, life as he knew it came to a crashing halt. Ty lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a ditch. While Ty does not remember the terrible accident, his life took a dramatic turn in a different direction that day.

The impact smashed the 4th, 5th, and 6th vertebrae in his neck; the diagnosis was Incomplete Quadriplegia. Ty retained some sensation, mostly continuous pain. He now uses a wheelchair and relies on morphine throughout the day.

Ty suits up and prepares for the adaptive ski experience.

“Since my accident I haven’t been able to do any of the things I enjoy,” Ty explains. “But one of the best ways to disrupt the pain is to keep my mind busy and active and to have fun.” Faced with his physical limitations, Ty admits he has struggled to overcome the mental obstacles to participating in recreational activities. The uncertainty of whether or not he “can do” an activity is its own internal barrier he has to overcome every time. He is keenly aware of the benefits of recreation though the mechanics aren’t ever easy for him.

Yet, Ty didn’t let that stop him. When The Independence Center’s Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Group sponsored a skiing retreat with Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center in December 2015, Ty agreed to go. The trip surpassed his expectations as a recreational experience. It actually was pivotal for Ty to overcoming the mental barriers. Facilitators from the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center and specialized adaptive ski equipment allowed Ty to experience sensations he hasn’t experienced since before the accident. Ty is eager to point out that the facilitators “made all the difference” through their expertise, positive attitudes, and assistance.

With assistance from facilitator at Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, Ty experiences skiing for the first time since his accident in 2011.

With assistance from facilitator at Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center, Ty experiences skiing for the first time since his accident in 2011.

“Tim [SCI group leader] invited me, encouraged me to try it and it blew my mind how easy it was,” Ty describes doing something he couldn’t have imagined was physically possible. “Now I know there’s got to be other things that are just as easy. The next thing I want to do is bicycle.”

On the long road to regaining his independence, the support and services Ty has received from The Independence Center have helped move him forward both physically and mentally. He describes rehab experiences at various facilities as somewhat hit or miss in terms of their results. And in the midst of coming to terms with his injury, he suffered the loss of many friends. In need of support, he got in touch with The Independence Center. He looks ahead thoughtfully as he states, “I’ve had more positive things come out of The Independence Center than anywhere else.”