Disabled skiers go extreme in ‘Heroes of the Slopes’
Vail, CO Colorado
ASPEN, Colorado ” Disabled skier Marc Romero grew tired of reading and watching the same watered-down news features about disabled athletes.
So, the 46-year-old, who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident at age 17, quit the corporate world to do something about it.
On Saturday, Romero’s film “Heroes of the Slopes” will make a theatrical premiere at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen. The one-hour documentary features top disabled skiers, including local mono-skier and disabled free-skiing pioneer Sam Ferguson.
“Heroes of the Slopes” also is showing on a handful of public television stations nationwide throughout December and January.
“I want myself to be shown on film correctly,” Romero said. While he credits first-time disabled ski programs with attracting people to the sport, Romero said getting “never-evers” on skis is only the beginning.
In his film, Romero focuses on athletes pushing the envelope, from top racers such as Greg Mannino and Monte Meier, to Paralympic hopefuls and blind skiers with guides.
Romero started skiing in 1986 and has never looked back, he said. He is “out for recess” when he’s on the slopes, and his competitive spirit landed him on the U.S. Disabled Ski Team.
But Romero’s yen for more extreme terrain was something he joked just didn’t help his race career much.
“I was one of the first guys going off-piste,” Romero said. “I realized pretty quickly that I wanted to push it off the trails.”
Learning to ski the bumps, steeps and powder was a humbling experience, Romero said. He often skis with standard ski poles instead of outriggers fitted with skis. And in the segment of the film featuring him, Romero trades his outriggers for Billy Kidd’s poles to hit the powder at Steamboat.
For Romero, skiing is the one sport that levels the playing field between disabled and able-bodied skiers; not only can he keep up with his kids, but like other free-skiers, Romero is pushing the envelope of what is possible.
A resident of Pine, a city on the Front Range, Romero is the father of two children age 8 and 10. He funded the film himself, something that has put strain on the family, he said. But Romero’s wife, Katie, is a nurse and has helped keep the family afloat in the three years Romero has been working on the project.
At a time when technologically-advanced mono-skis are taking paraplegics to the Winter X Games or over the lip of 30-foot cliffs in the backcountry, Romero endeavored to document the cutting edge.
He teamed up with co-producer and cameraman Tim Nixon, and Romero wrote, produced and narrated the film. Using a “level cam” to get many of the action shots, the pair traveled all over the West.
The film features music by the Indigo Girls, Midnight Oil and Neil Young. “Heroes of the Slopes” offers inside perspective, Romero said, adding that, because he is a disabled skier, he better understands the subjects of his film.
“It’s the same for everybody who loses a body part,” Romero said, adding that only people who have experienced that can understand the transformation of body and mind.
Thanks to advances in technology, many people recover quickly from serious injuries and can adapt physically to new circumstances, but it takes years to adjust to such changes mentally, Romero said.
“I wanted to tell this story,” he added. “I wanted to see stories like these.”
Making the film has been stressful, but Romero said he’s not the first to risk it all for a good idea, and along the way has had a lot of support from his family and people like Hal O’Leary, the founder of disabled skiing.
Money is simply a “barometer of success” for the film, Romero said. Copies of the DVD are available at his Web site (www.heroesoftheslopes.com), and the filmmaker hopes to at least break even with the project.
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