A Triumphant Return

Last summer, Victoria Arlen competed in swimming at the London Paralympics, winning a gold medal and three silvers. This winter, Arlen traded her swimsuit for a monoski at Loon Mountain.

Victoria Arlen laughs with her instructors during a visit to Loon.
Victoria Arlen laughs with her instructors during a visit to Loon.

Victoria, 18, of Exeter, N.H., grew up as a skier, spending much of her childhood at Loon with her family. That all changed when Victoria was 11. That year, Victoria was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a rare nurological disorder that inflames the spinal cord and left left her paralyzed below the belly button. Victoria spent three years in a vegetative state, unable to walk, talk, eat, move, or communicate.

Today, Victoria is like any other 18-year-old high school senior, albeit one who also happens to be an Olympian, model, actor, and motivational speaker. This December, Victoria took time out of her busy schedule to return to Loon for the first time in nearly eight years.

Since returning to Loon in December, Victoria has taken several monoski lessons with the coaches at New England Disabled Sports, steadily improving her skills with each visit. We took a run with Victoria last week, and asked what it’s been like to return to Loon after so many years.

Loon Mountain:              

What made you decide to try mono skiing?

Victoria Arlen:                

I’ve always been a skier my entire life. I learned when I was two years old. We had come up to Loon for years and years. After I got paralyzed when I was 11 we stopped, because my parents didn’t think I could ski. It wasn’t fair because I couldn’t get out and shred with my family. Then when I was speaking at a college a friend came up to me and said “Have you thought about monoskiing?”

After a lot of convincing he convinced me to come up and just go for a run with everyone here. From there I was addicted and picked it up pretty fast. I came up every couple of weeks. Finally after eight years we’re back up at Loon for a full ski vacation. It’s cool, and it’s really fun. I’m still kind of getting  in the groove of it.

Arlen takes a run down Lower Picked Rock last week.
Arlen takes a run down Lower Picked Rock last week.

Loon Mountain:

How did it feel to come back after so many years?

Victoria Arlen:

It’s the same amazing mountain. The people are just so sweet and stuff. I think I have more of an appreciation for it, being out there to ski after all that I’ve gone through, the fact that I’m back out there. It’s great, I love it here.

Loon Mountain:

Was it difficult to learn how to monoski?

Victoria Arlen:

I’ve been a standup skier all my life, so it was a little different. Getting on the chairlift is harder and stuff like that, and just finding different ways of getting down the mountain. It’s a lot like standup skiing, but you just have a little more maneuvering. It’s all upper body, so you just have to find where your arms are supposed to go and stuff. But I love it. It’s skiing. I mean I’m not on black diamonds or anything, but it’s great.

Loon Mountain:

What’s your favorite trail at Loon?

Victoria Arlen:

I love Sunset. It’s always been my favorite trail. Eight years ago was the last time up at Loon skiing, and about my third time coming up to monoski we finally made it up to Sunset. We all had a moment together and it was really cool to finally get back up on top of the mountain.

Loon Mountain:

What are your plans for the future?

Victoria Arlen:

I’m taking a gap year next year to kind of be able to tinker around with some more sports. I’m actually training for the World Championships in swimming, so hopefully I’ll make that team this year. I do acting and modeling, so I’m doing that, as well as touring colleges. There’s some cool stuff in the works and I do motivational speaking, so I’m kind of all over the place at the moment. But I love it.

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