The Return to Mammoth MountainAndre Barbieri
Last weekend was a defining moment in my life, The Return to Mammoth Mountain.
I fantasized many times about how it was going to be and what I was going to feel. And I carry a lot of weight on my shoulders because I know that back home (specially) my mom and my grandma were just a bundle of nerves when they heard I wanted to go back and “face the dragon”.
The truth is that I owe a lot to this place, it’s almost spiritual. The accident, and the mountain, brought me so many good things and there’s hardly any sad feeling about it right now. I know that I suffered a lot and all those around me suffered as much as me.
Because of good stars aligned and my attitude towards this event (the accident) that divided waters, I took that table and turned it upside down! I got lemons and turned them into “orange juice”! Meaning, I reinvented myself and am trying to be better than I was before. Besides just an average surfer, I also transformed myself into a triathlete that is fighting to get a slot into the next Paralympics!!! The achievement of a lifetime if I get there… I always loved to dream and still do, that keeps the flames alive and burning for me. Always aim to the moon, then you gonna get at least sky high!
The return was all that I was expecting, and maybe more. It was a divine weekend. Like I promised to myself, I didn’t want to be frustrated, so I had very low expectations –then I was extremely pleased with the results! Snowboarding actually was easier than I thought it was going to be, even though I wasn’t on a dedicated leg for that sport, it was just my regular walking prosthesis. So of course there were limitations on my movements, I couldn’t link turns and be as smooth as I was before. When I got strapped on that board, all the muscle memory returned to me, BUT I didn’t have the muscles! So If I wanted, yes, it could be frustrating to compare to “how it was before”, but that’s not what you do. What you do is play with the cards that you have and realize that you are back on the horse again and that is a victory in itself! And be grateful for that! There’s also a lot of room for improvement if I so want, so that makes me happy.
I thought there could be a trauma when I got back up there in the mountain. And it took longer than I wanted for this trip to happen, but there’s no regrets at all. You know, I’ve been busy working and training to be an Olympian, it’s not like I have a lot of free time in my hands!
The way it happened was very nice. I had adapted snowboard classes, which was such a treat! I’ve never had classes before (just self taught), so it pointed to some mistakes that are already ingrained in me and are hard to break. Then after it was decided I had enough skills to get on a ski lift, up we went, with the instructor Nic and the camera Dany Schrimpf right by my side at all times! When I saw I was already going down black rated trails, not fast but I was doing it! So I never really got emotional, it just happened that I remembered how much fun it is to snowboard, it’s an absolutely incredible sport that I am fascinated with!
Also important to note is that the sport kicked my ass! It’s amazing how much energy it took out of me, it wiped me out! After 3 hours (which before would be half day in the mountain), I got back in the cafeteria and pass out on the table before I regrouped and found energy to eat! Gotta understand that all the power you need to snowboard, I need to do all that with one leg! I’ll be more prepared next time…
It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t find the exact spot where the accident happened, even with good help from the instructor and Dany. My memory from that day (almost 4 years ago) is a little blurry because it all happened so fast. I wanted to go there and pay a tribute. But on the other hand that’s good, because I’ll have to go back with my brother, and he knows exactly where it is. I wanted to have him with me so bad, but he just had surgery on his knee, he couldn’t snowboard. And couldn’t come because of work. And I couldn’t pass on this amazing opportunity, and, like Dany said, “the Mountain will always be there.” It’s safe to say we’ll come back. I am sorry mom.