Blind skier in Vail |

Blind skier in Vail

Charles Owen
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyScott Smiley, right, an Iraq war veteran who was blinded when a car bomb exploded in front of him, skies down Northwoods run Tuesday on Vail Mountain with the help of blind ski guide Bill Isaacs, center, and adaptive ski instructor Orv Haugen, left.

VAIL ” Skiing with your eyes closed is very dangerous, but if you’re Scott Smiley you have no choice.

It has been just over one year since Scott Smiley has skied Vail, and almost two years since he was blinded by shrapnel from a suicide bomb in Iraq.

On April 6, 2005, Smiley and his squad received intelligence of enemy activity in Mosul. Smiley and his squad were checking for car bombs when something went wrong.

“I went out that day with my company commander to find anything suspicious and ask people in the community if they had heard anything about suicide car bombs,” he said.

Eventually Smiley found a suspicious looking vehicle with a man inside.

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“He wasn’t parked in an area that most people parked in.” he said.

Smiley fired two warning shots and then the driver blew up himself and the car.

Since losing his vision, Smiley, 26, has been surfing, wake boarding and sky-diving. He is still on active duty, a captain in the U.S. Army.

Smiley will be skiing for three days with a small entourage of friends and family. Joining him for the first time on the slopes since Smiley lost his sight is Army buddy and old college pal Adam Rivette of Colorado Springs and Adam Wilson of Denver. His sister, Mary Lynn, was also on the slopes.

“I’m amazed at his courage. I think it’s just great that he’s out here doing what he loves,” said Wilson.

Making this adventure possible is Foresight, a nonprofit organization that enables blind and visually impaired skiers to ski, snowboard and snowshoe. Foresight was started by Mark Davis, a 49 year old Denver resident, who is also visually impaired due to an attack of multiple sclerosis.

“We decided that we needed a program exclusively for people who are blind or visually impaired. I think we are probably the largest organization of it’s kind in the country,” Davis said.

Smiley’s ski guides are Orv Haugen and Bill Isaacs, who have both been with the program for four years now. Haugen finds the program rewarding for both the skiers and the guides, and says, “It’s a great way to help somebody else and have a great time yourself.”

Smiley is thrilled with the Foresight skiing program. “Foresight is just an awesome operation, and the ski guides: Bill, Mark and Orv, all the guys that have taught me and have instructed me on skiing blind has been just an awesome opportunity,” Smiley said.

Haugen and Isaacs guided Smiley down the Christmas Tree run, and then moved on to the more spacious Northwoods. They stopped for a moment to teach Smiley a new technique that will improve his turning, and then started back down the hill.

After an hour, Smiley’s technique had vastly improved. He appeared relaxed considering the task which he is undertaking. His speed is brisk and his form looks good.

If it sounds like Smiley has a good attitude despite all that he has been through, it’s because he does.

“I think it’s important in the recovery process for someone that’s lost a leg, an arm or has gone through a traumatic event to be able to work and try to do the same things they did before. At the same time that it’s scary, it’s exhilarating, it’s a blast.” said Smiley.

Smiley is still active in the military. He is a member of the Wounded Warriors operation and is preparing to become an instructor at the U.S. Military Academy. He is also applying to graduate school.

“I’m still able to serve my country. There are so many opportunities the Lord has blessed me with,” he said. “I’m probably more blessed than what I was last year, and I’m definitely proud to say it.”

He has been spending a lot of time in the limelight lately, traveling and giving speeches for the Army. His personal life is also a whirlwind at the moment. He and his wife, Tiffany, are expecting their first child in just a couple of months.

“I know that the Lord has a plan for me,” he said. “It takes time to recognize that something happened to you.

“I’ve been a Christian almost my whole life, and knowing that God still had a plan for me and that I was married to a beautiful woman and she was standing by me, I knew that I had to get better.”

For more information about the Foresight ski program, visit

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