The winter of 2021-2022 has been all about building confidence for Steamboat para-alpine skier Paige Van Arsdale.
She lived on her own for the first time, finding a new bus system and cooking for herself, and that confidence boost translated into her skiing, helping her win six medals in her last six races of the season at Winter Park earlier this month. .
At the USA Alpine Adaptive National Championships, the 22-year-old skier won silver in giant slalom, bronze in slalom and bronze in her first-ever Super-G race. She also won bronze and a pair of silver medals in a trio of NORAM races that same weekend.
The event did not start smoothly for Van Arsdale. She was eager to race on the first day as the falling snow had been pushed to the edge of the giant slalom course, leaving little room for anyone running along the course.
She said she didn’t want to run, but her coach reminded her of the reality of the situation.
“He said, ‘Suck it, buttercup,'” Van Arsdale said. “And when I was taking the class, he said, ‘Buckle up, buttercup. “”
Although the phrase isn’t usually thought-provoking, Van Arsdale twisted it and imagined the Powerpuff Girl Buttercup, who is a strong, energetic young woman. With that image in mind, she soared down the course and won second place at the Nationals.
The next day, she contested her very first Super-G race. The weather was nicer and Van Arsdale had a whole winter of confidence behind her, convincing her that she could not only do Super-G, but do it well.
The Steamboat skier lived in Salt Lake City, Utah for a few months during the winter. She used the buses to get around and ski in Park City. She had a few setbacks with the schedule, but quickly became a familiar face to drivers. She also learned to cook for herself, helped by the ingredients delivered. Gaining independence and realizing she could conquer new tasks helped Van Arsdale up the hill.
“At first she used to FaceTime me every night when she was cooking,” Paige’s mom, Melissa Van Arsdale, said. “But then she understood. All these obstacles she faced, she overcame them.
Despite never having done it before, Van Arsdale dispatched it on her first super-G attempt and finished bronze.
“I think I like the Super-G more than any other event I’ve skied before. I like to feel the wind on my face. With slalom, I’m starting to like slalom too, but I’m trying to learn how to be faster in the slalom gates. It’s just hard for me to think about being fast on my feet.
Van Arsdale, who has cerebral palsy, is a stand-up skier. Cerebral palsy caused growth dysfunction in his right leg, which surgeries helped correct. Yet Van Arsdale’s gait isn’t always steady or smooth. Cerebral palsy also inhibits Van Arsdale’s cognitive abilities. She takes a little longer to pronounce a sentence and her reaction time is not the same as a neurotypical person.
Long story short, the effects of cerebral palsy make slalom difficult, but she’s practiced hard to improve.
For the past two years, Van Arsdale has aimed for the Beijing Olympics, but hasn’t quite made it this year. Now she is aiming for the 2026 Winter Games in Italy.
The first step to achieving this is to stay in shape and work this summer to help raise funds to fund his next competitive winter.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.