Lucky me! I recently met Dan Cnossen, a Paralympic Nordic skier and biathlete who has been skiing at the Leo J. Martin Ski Track near Boston this winter.
As our Universal Access Program has started up for the season on site, I've been noticing Dan circling the course as I assist with program set up. It is wonderful to witness a Paralympic athlete moving with such power and grace mixed in with the usual Sunday crowd - families, couples, individuals, and young adults with autism who have been making up the bulk of our program so far. For further information on adaptive skiing opportunities at the Leo J. Martin Ski Track in Weston see the end of this post.
Dan's recent history is easy to convey in a few words: Navy Seal. Lt. Commander. Purple Heart. Bronze Star. Sochi Winter Paralympics. Dan lost his lower legs in Afghanistan in 2009 but this didn't slow down his forward momentum for long. Previously based in Colorado where he has continued to work with the Seals as well as train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Dan is in Massachusetts working on a masters degree and making the most out of local snow.
Until a week ago, the man-made snow at the Ski Track in Weston was the only good skiing snow for 100 miles due to marginal conditions here, further north and at higher elevations, according to ski concession staff. Dan's appearance on the course is a welcome outcome of winter's slow arrival.
Though usually a competitor in sprints and races from 1-15K, Dan is considering doing a 50K race in Wisconsin this winter. He hopes to get back in competitive shape and make the U.S. Ski Team for the 2018 Winter Paralympics in South Korea, while acknowledging that school is a priority too.
Dan competed in 6 events in Sochi and placed well though he has yet to medal in the Winter Paralympics. He says he's in "decent" shape right now, though his fitness far surpasses most skiers I saw on the course. As he passed me halfway through his 2 1/2 hour workout this Sunday morning, he casually spoke to me in the midst of a turn, not even out of breath.
I've always been impressed by biathletes, those Nordic skiers who stop along the race in several places to shoot rifles at targets. Accuracy is part of the competition, along with the speed to win, so the ability to control your heart rate is a key part of the biathlete's strategy.
What fun to witness such an athlete in action! Check him out on YouTube here. Good luck Dan with all your endeavors and thanks again for serving our country!
Adaptive ski opportunities at the Leo J. Martin Ski Track include the DCR's Universal Access Program, which is well-suited for new or ongoing skiers with a wide array of disabilities. This program takes place on most Sunday afternoons through March 6. For further info and to register, contact Stavros Outdoor Access at 413-259-0009. Veterans interested in Nordic skiing are served 4 days a week on site by the Weston Ski Track staff through a grant obtained by the New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA). For more info and to get lessons, call 781-891-6575 and ask for Mark or Deb. The Weston Ski Track staff can also arrange lessons for civilians with a disabilities most days of the week.