At 83, Kelley still skis after post-polio
Over 20 years ago, Severance Kelley hung up his skis and resigned himself to the fact he would never ski again. The symptoms of post-polio syndrome — a paralysis that had spread to both legs —forced him to give up the only sport he enjoyed. Until April 2014, that is, when the 83 year-old retired psychiatrist and war veteran who lives in Highlands Ranch, decided to come up to Winter Park Resort and try sit skiing.
Post-polio syndrome is a condition that affects polio survivors years after recovery from an initial, acute attack of the polio virus. Kelley had polio as an infant. In 1990, he began to have difficulty lifting his right leg, he said. And eventually he also lost use of his left leg.
The National Institutes of Health states that some individuals experience only minor symptoms, while others develop visible muscle weakness and atrophy. Kelley is nearly paralyzed from the waist down, and uses an electric scooter to get around. Kelley’s equipment also includes two hand-held outriggers similar to ski poles, which allow him to control his speed and direction. The instructors, on regular skis, tether themselves to the bi-ski, which allows for a secondary source of speed control.
“You use the outriggers and lean your body left and right to steer,” Kelley said.
Although skiing on the bi-ski is quite different than skiing with good legs, Kelley said “He’s glad to be riding the ski lift and going down on the snow.”
Kelley’s inspiration to start skiing again came after watching the 2014 Paralympic Games on television.
“I was intrigued by what these people can do,” he said. He paid special attention to downhill skiing, and seeing the competitors’ accomplishments. He decided to contact the National Sports Center for the Disabled at Winter Park Resort. Kelley has been skiing as a regular participant in the NSCD Thursday program for the past two years.
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ESPN’s Winter X Games is back in Aspen this week for the 20th straight year, although it’ll lack most of the usual flair. Out of precaution to safeguard against further spread of COVID-19, there won’t be any fans, any music and, well, really anything outside of the main competitions.