When Durangoan Noah Hotchkiss raced the top under-21 Paralympic skiers in the U.S. on Dec. 7 at Breckenridge, it was his first “real” race.
His race experience until then included only three years of the Dave Spencer Classic, the annual fundraiser for the Adaptive Sports Association held at Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort. Gone were the fun costumes and getups synonymous with the Spencer Classic; instead, there was top-notch equipment and professional coaches watching their athletes’ every move.
“He was just a Durango kid skiing on a yard-sale ski and an old chair, and he beat a lot of the guys with new equipment,” said Jason Hotchkiss, Noah’s dad. Noah placed third, skiing the giant slalom as the only mono-ski at a national event in Breckenridge.
With his superb result, Noah has been invited to train and live with other national Olympic and Paralympic team members at Park City, Utah, in 2014-15. The Hotchkisses have not decided whether to accept the offer.
“We are so excited,” said Tim Kroes, Adaptive Sports Association’s executive director.
Noah has been skiing with Adaptive Sports for three years, and Jason Hotchkiss credits the group with providing much of Noah’s support.
“It’s awesome to watch him on the road to being a professional athlete,” Jason said.
As of yet, Noah doesn’t have a training regime, although he participates in physical therapy twice a week and will soon start training at Durango Mountain Resort “for real.”
He and Jason hope to start working with the local alpine team to start getting more experience, running through the gates and working on his muscle memory. According to Kroes, Noah doesn’t need much more instruction with his mono-ski, but he could use some help with techniques and just getting more mileage on the slopes.
Noah was involved in a 2009 car crash that left his legs paralyzed.
“Shortly after his accident,” Kroes said, “Jason brought (Noah) up to the program, and one of his first days up there was when Alana Nichols (an Adaptive Sports graduate) was winning all these medals, and Noah said, ‘Since I can’t play soccer anymore, I want to win medals for skiing.’”
He is now one step closer to a possible medal.
For the first part of the week during his training at Breckenridge, he trained with other kids his age but caught the eye of the U.S. Paralympic Team head coach, Ray Watkins, who then trained him one-on-one for the latter half of the week. Noah was invited to go live in Park City next year to train with the team – with an on-site tutor of course, to keep the Animas High School sophomore on top of his schooling.
Hannah Robertson is a Durango High School senior who is spending several hours a week studying media in the Herald newsroom.