Aussie sit skier has high hopes for first Wells Fargo Cup race | SkyHiNews.com

Aussie sit skier has high hopes for first Wells Fargo Cup race

Hank Shell
hshell@skyhidailynews.com

If people are defined by how they handle adversity, then Mark Soyer is a truly remarkable man.

As a child, Soyer survived leukemia.

As an adult, he survived a motorbike accident that left him a paraplegic.

It's hard to imagine someone getting through the kind of hardships that Soyer faced, let alone thriving in the face of them.

But Soyer did.

Now 36, Soyer is the No. 1 sit skier in his native Australia and one of the top sit-ski alpine racers in the world.

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He'll be competing in the National Sports Center for the Disabled's 40th Annual Wells Fargo Ski Cup this weekend at Winter Park.

It will be Soyer's first time racing in the Wells Fargo Ski Cup, though his bright career has already taken him to competitions around the world.

Soyer was a teenager when he was introduced to sit skiing.

As a volunteer for a cancer survivors' support group, Soyer would teach amputees to sit ski.

In 2004, Soyer was riding a motorbike on his family's farm in Australia when he crashed, severing his spine.

"I kind of knew about adaptive skiing prior to my accident, and I just thought it would be something that I would like to try," Soyer said.

And it didn't take long.

In fact, Soyer tried sit skiing just six months after his accident.

"Totally not recommended by doctors, but you never listen to them anyways," Soyer said.

Soyer started training seriously during the 2006-2007 season.

Training in Australia was challenging, Soyer said, mainly because there aren't a lot of adaptive skiing programs

"Back then there wasn't really a program such as the NSCD or anything like that to learn to ski, so geographically you were just kind of in the wrong spot," Soyer said.

After spending a weekend training on homemade equipment in Australia, Soyer traveled to Breckenridge to train for six weeks at the Breckenridge Outdoor Center.

"Within one year I was already racing for Australia," he said.

Soyer now has his eye on the 2015 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in Panorama, Canada.

"I think, realistically, if I can end up top 10 in the world, I would be really, really pumped with that," Soyer said.

He's already raised half of the money needed for the trip through a campaign on gofundme.com

Soyer said he'd also love to make an appearance at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The appeal of skiing

Sit skiing is a "rough and tumble" sport, Soyer said, which is partly why it appealed to him.

But the versatility of the sport means that there's always room for improvement, he said.

"It's only your own ability that stops you," Soyer said. "You pretty much lose your disability when you get in your sit ski, and I don't think there's any other sport that actually allows me to lose my disability."

Since 2007, Soyer has raced in North America, Europe and Japan, among other places, but he does have a soft spot for Colorado.

One of his best memories is of scaling the Highland Bowl in Aspen on a bluebird day, and now he's spent five seasons in Winter Park.

"What I really love about training here in Winter Park is that you can train and then as soon as training is over, you can put on your free ski and head out over to the Jane side and really have some fun," Soyer said.

But either way, it's not where you are that makes a good day of skiing, Soyer said.

"It doesn't really matter where it is in the world," Soyer said. "As long as the snow is good and you're with good friends, you'll always have a good day.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

Wells Fargo Ski Cup Schedule

Friday, Feb. 20

10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Corporate Challenge mandatory qualifying runs

Lower Hughes Rail

12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Auction tent open

Resort Base

2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Athlete autograph session

Resort Base

Saturday, Feb. 21

8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Corporate Challenge mandatory qualifying runs

Lower Hughes Trail

9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Auction tent open

Resort Base

10:30 a.m.

Corporate Challenge

Lower Hughes Trail

3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Apres Ski Bash

Auction Tent, Resort Base

Sunday, Feb. 22

9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

World Disabled Invitational Qualifying

Lower Hughes Trail

11 a.m.

World Disabled Invitational Finals

Lower Hughes Trail

SILENT AUCTION

The NSCD will accept donations for the silent auction up to Saturday, Feb. 21. If you would like to donate an item for the silent auction, please send an email to njackson@nscd.org or call 303-633-5806.

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