Magazine Feature / People

Deaf skier lives life out loud

Without challenges, life would be easy and boring.

So says Austin Nelson, a DU senior business major who knows a thing or two about challenges.

Nelson, 21, was born severely hearing impaired, and that has impacted his balance. Yet, he’s taken up a sport that hinges almost entirely on balance — skiing.

In fact, Nelson, a member of the U.S. Ski Team, will compete as an alpine skier in the Winter Deaflympics in Salt Lake City this February. What’s more, he’s one of the favored competitors.

Nelson wears hearing aids, which help some. Without them, he has 65-percent hearing loss in his left ear and about 90-percent loss in the right.

“It can be quite a challenge,” he explains. “It wasn’t until about third grade when I realized that elevator wasn’t pronounced alligator.”

If his hearing loss is profound, Nelson’s outlook on life is even more so.

“Skiing has taught me determination and doing what you love leads to success,” he says. “Because I love skiing, I’m always motivated to get better every time I hit the slopes. When you fall nine times, you get up 10.

“Learning from failures is the only way to become successful,” he adds. “Success doesn’t come naturally. It’s the byproduct of failure. I live by this rule, and it seems to be working.”

Nelson began skiing at age 2 with help from a leash his dad used to keep him from shooting down the mountain.

One of his earliest memories is a trip to a Vermont mountain encased in a thick fog. “We couldn’t see more than 20 feet,” Nelson says.

Nevertheless, his father took him down a steep run. “We made it down slowly and we ended up skiing it over and over again.”

The next day the fog lifted to reveal that they had been skiing a double black diamond run. “I took one look and I knew there was no way I was going down it again.”

Perhaps what Nelson doesn’t realize is he’s been on a double black diamond his whole life and is making his way quite well.

Austin Nelson has to raise $4,000 to compete in the 2006 Deaflympics. To contribute, send a check to: USA Deaf Sports Federation, 102 North Krohn Place, Sioux Falls, SD 57103-1800. Write “Austin Nelson” in the memo line.

Comments are closed.