LAKE PLACID - Military veteran Miles Kamson had never tried a snow sport before traveling to Paul Smiths and Lake Placid for the Adirondack Adaptive Nordic Ski Camp.
But the 23-year-old Kamson, who had his leg amputated below his knee after a motorcycle accident in June 2010, is leaving a Nordic skiing enthusiast.
"I think this is really awesome," said Kamson of Philadelphia. "I'm really thinking about dedicating to skiing. I just got to get my weight down and just ... work on my endurance. This is something I can definitely do. It's too much fun."
Mike Lynch/Lake Placid News
Miles Kamson of Philadelphia celebrates after finishing the Nordic sit-ski race at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex in Lake Placid on Sunday, Feb. 5.
Kamson was one of about 20 men and women who took part in the camp at the Paul Smith's College VIC last Thursday and Friday, then finished at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex in Lake Placid on Saturday and Sunday. The camp held biathlon and cross-country skiing competitions for the athletes as part of the Empire State Winter Games.
The athletes came from all over the country. Some are part of organizations such as the adaptive program division of the New England Nordic Ski Association while others were veterans of recent wars like Kamson. There were seven military veterans who were sponsored by the U.S. Paralympic Team.
The athletes suffered from a variety of ailments, from multiple sclerosis to limb loss to spinal cord injuries. There were two divisions of racers: stand-up and sit skiers. The sit skiers slid over the snow by using a modified wheelchair frame that was mounted to a pair of skis. They combined the sit skis with a pair of short Nordic skis to propel themselves.
Kamson was one of those using the sit ski setup. He said the veterans' administration is trying to encourage people like him to be more involved with sports.
"What they are doing at my VA is they are trying to get veterans more active, especially after limb loss," he said. "After limb loss you can go through a depression stage and you don't do much except watch the world because you can't stand and you can't do the things that you are used to. You kind of lay around and you get little lazy, so programs like these are to try to introduce you to a new sport, something new. Something that you can do as an amputee and something that can be demanding, where you can get off the couch, you know. Get you off the couch and get you moving. Get you active again. That's basically when I'm looking for. "
One of the additional benefits of the camp was that the participants could bond with people in the same situation as themselves.
"It's good to come up here and experience this with everyone else that has the same disability or someone with a different disability, so you don't feel like you're by yourself," said 21-year-old sit-skier Matt Smith, who lives near Rochester. "For all the younger people that are growing up with disabilities, that don't really know what to do, this is a great place to come up and share with other people and let them know they aren't by themselves. And they have the opportunity to do whatever they want to do, as long they put their mind to it."
Chelsea Scheefer of Peru is 31 years old. She had a snowboarding accident at the Big Tupper Ski Area in Tupper Lake years ago, which left her with a spinal cord injury and paralyzed from the waist down.
"It was absolutely amazing to meet other individuals with disabilities and be out on the snow and really compete and get the heart rate up and learn some new skills," she said. "For me, I was hurt 14 years ago on Big Tupper. I was snowboarding, so being out and enjoying the winter and being out on the snow is just so wonderful. It's just a great workout and a lot of fun."