“You kids get off my line!” Kline ready to rip. Photo: Courtesy Ron Kline.
Dressed in a pink onesie, pink hat and you guessed it, pink goggles, 83-year-old Shirley Kline looks like a vintage ski bunny, ready to carve turns on freshly groomed corduroy. And carve she does, just a bit differently than you and me. A stroke survivor, Kline is confined to a wheelchair. She skis in a bi-ski, tethered by an instructor from Crested Butte’s Adaptive Sports Center (ASC), who retains most of the control. After slathering on sunscreen and checking she’s fit properly into the ski, Kline is ready to hit the slopes. On the lift ride up, she says, “I just like going fast. I like to feel the wind on my face.”
An annual client of the ASC, Kline and her husband Ron skied for the first time on their honeymoon in 1957. On their way to the then small town of Aspen, the newlyweds’ car became high-centered in a snowdrift on Independence Pass (the New Jersey natives hadn’t realized the road was closed). A nearby farmer and his wife rescued them. Despite this initial wintertime misadventure, the Klines fell in love with the mountains and have been skiing together for the last 54 years.
In Crested Butte, Ron skis alongside Shirley, snapping photos and occasionally speeding ahead. This is their annual family vacation, a time when all of their children and grandchildren join them on the mountain, a tradition made possible by the ASC. Founded in 1987, with the help of former President and Mrs. Carter, the ASC has grown from providing 33 alpine ski lessons in its first year, to offering year-round activities for all abilities for more than 1,000 people a year. With a mission to empower people with disabilities though outdoor adventure skills, the ASC hosts a diverse range of students who learn not only how to ski, but how to advocate for themselves.
Prior to Shirley’s stroke, the Klines skied all over the world, from the most celebrated resorts in Colorado to Mount Elbrus in Russia. Of all the exotic places they have skied, Shirley’s favorite is still the Rockies. After her first run of the season in Crested Butte, her crinkled brown eyes are bright. “I just love to ski,” she says, “anywhere, any way.”