"No Taylor, They Don't Make Skis for Guide Dogs"
This was a conundrum, because we were set to go skiing in two months. Musicfest 2015 was coming up and Lauren hadn't skied since she was young enough to have most of her vision. Now in grad school this was not the case. Lauren was mostly convinced that skiing was off the table nowadays. My 'guide-dog inclusive' ideas were not very persuasive in changing her mind either.
While Lauren was mentally checking out with each passing joke, I secretly wanted to come up with a good idea. My idea of a group ski trip didn't include Lauren at the base of the mountain; I wanted her experiencing it with the rest of us. So I buckled down and started to think how could we seriously solve this problem?
So I do what every good engineer does when you're first trying to solve a problem - Google it and see if someone else has solved it first. And Google Images had some good solutions, but they just, 'weren't the right fit and just needed some tweaks.' Famous last words from engineers that have frustrated both project managers and spouses alike.
Lots of pictures had some form of this: A small, disinterested child, an embarrassing association with dog leashes, and a mother who is regretting not dropping their kid off at ski school.
An upgrade over those monkey tailed backpacks, amiright?
This setup had some drawbacks that made this impractical for Lauren and I. First, the person in front is leading and the person behind's role is just to brake and use ungainly gestures to slightly guide left and right. And with a child that works because most of the time you're just trying to keep the kid from rocketing down the mountain. For us, I wanted the actual skiing part to be fluid- almost like water skiing, not some dog walk/marionette show.
So I knew that:
-I needed to be in front.
-Lauren needed a pole, not a rope, to be able to feel when I'm breaking.
-The device needed to be small enough for us to transport up the top of the mountain.
With that decided, I started brainstorming things that are collapsible, lightweight, and rigid. Camera monopods? No, they're too expensive. Just have Lauren hold onto your ski poles? Too short, kind of impale-y if a bad fall happens. What about pool skimmer poles?
Not coming to a Sun and Ski Sport near you.
You know, this might work. So Lauren and I went to a Leslie's Pool Supplies to pick out some pool skimmers. No joke, Lauren and I stood in the isles holding the ends of various pool skimmers to see which length would work the best. I'm sure there were awkward glances from other customers who were curious to see if these kids actually knew how a pool skimmer worked. The Aggie jokes just write themselves. We settled on two 4-foot poles that extended to 8-feet. This was long enough that our skis wouldn't touch, but actually short enough that I could collapse them into real ski poles while on the lifts.
We excitedly take them home, finagle up some duct tape wrist straps, and put some high visibility tape on them. We didn't want a liquored up skier/oblivious toddler to accidentally cut between us. With the poles finished, we now just wait until January. Lauren excitedly shares with her family that the Christmas gift I got her was pool poles. Initial reaction matched those people in Leslie Pool Supplies.
So how'd it go? Take a look for yourself.
It was a blast. It took about a day to learn to ski down the mountain without whipping Lauren all over the place. We've figured it out and thoroughly enjoy skiing. We both mostly 'pizza' and cut wide turns down the mountain. We can pick up some speed though if we want to. The poles collapse when we are at the base getting onto the lift. I'll carry the poles up, we'll get off the lift, extend the poles and ski down. We usually stick to greens and Lauren's done a few blues as well. If I don't tell her its a blue usually about halfway down she knows somethings amiss. Don't know what gives it away.
As a side note, Lauren's always had this 'Blind Skier' vest to help others know whats up while she's on the mountain. I made my own 'Guide Dog' vest to help lighten the mood. We've skied about half a dozen times with these poles and they've been great conversation starters. Its a lot more fun doing this instead of just telling Lauren about how skiing went when we trek back to the lodge.
Taylor Barron is an unlicensed, unqualified, life coach who specializes in web development and marketing for his wife's website while also working as a mechanical engineer to pay the bills. If you would like to see these ski poles in action, he currently has a few vacation days left and is willing to travel on non Aggie home football game weekends. Use Lauren's business line below to schedule an appointment today.
Lauren Barron is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist-Associate specializing in working with engaged, newlywed, and married couples. If you would like to set up an appointment or consultation with her today, call her at (713) 364-9748.