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TOM STEARLEY

Mountain Thrill

“Winter is now something to look forward to.”

With confidence, Tom Stearley weaves down the slope, with powder flying into the air at every curve. At the end of the run he slowly comes into a controlled stop, meeting four Vermont Adaptive instructors.

“That was awesome,” says one instructor. “Thank you,” a humble yet smiling Tom replies. 

For the past 12 years, Tom, 55, has traveled from Connecticut to Vermont regularly to ski. A spinal cord disease diagnosed in 1995 resulted in Tom becoming a partial paraplegic. Because of his passion for recreating and desire to return to the outdoors, some friends at his tennis club suggested Tom try skiing—a sport he had only dabbled with in the past. “I remember I skied for one week in high school and loved it,” he recalled.

Determined to get on the slopes, Tom learned some adaptive skiing techniques by joining Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports in 2003, and has returned to Vermont annually ever since. 

“The people at Vermont Adaptive are so incredibly nice,” he explained. “First they taught me how to ski, and now they just help me with my mobility. Today, I’m just working to improve my technique.” 

When discussing the logistics of mobility in a wheelchair, Tom is blunt: “Snow and wheelchairs just don’t get along.” However, he is first to say that “Killington and Pico have done a great job at making their resorts as accessible as possible.” 

Last season Tom traveled twice to Vermont; this season he will make two more trips and ski a total of 18 days.  There is a “thrill about the mountains,” he said, especially when he speeds down the slopes. “It makes the winter go by faster...actually, winter is now something to look forward to.” 

Tom is thrilled to recreate in Vermont, and he has made lots of friends while skiing here. “Vermont has so many great restaurants, hotels and resorts that are accessible,” he said. “Ultimately, you plan and you just make it work.” 

When he isn’t skiing in winter, he is cycling or volunteering at Kids in Crisis, a Greenwich, Connecticut program serving children in need. So why does he keep returning to Vermont to recreate year after year? “There is a fantastic view at the top of the mountains,” he declared. “And people in Vermont are just so welcoming!”