Local Alice Plain not stopped by MS as she conquers Swiss Alps on ski hut tour
Alice Plain is preparing for her eighth Bike MS Colorado ride, set for June 25–26. The two-day, 150-mile+ ride is the Society’s third largest Bike MS ride in the nation and annually raises $4 million for programs and research that benefits 100,000 people affected by MS in Colorado and Wyoming.
For more information visit http://www.bikeMScolorado.org.
Editor’s note: Almost 10 years to the day after Alice Plain was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she packed her ski gear and headed to Europe for a ski mountaineering hut trip tour in the Alps. The challenge came with several looming concerns: glaciers, the exposure and steep grades of the Alps would be both mentally and physically challenging. Of course, there was also MS. Plain is the director of golf for the Vail Golf Club. This is her story, in her words.
When I first started planning the trip I didn’t realize that it would take place almost 10 years after my diagnosis — to the day. I trained hard all winter, by skinning up the local mountains in the Vail Valley, but I knew what I was taking on would be a delicate balance between being prepared and overexerting myself. Overdoing it could tip the multiple sclerosis scale against me. Right up until the start I wasn’t sure how it would go, but this was a lifelong dream and I was determined to try.
From Z to shining Z
On April 5, my friend, Ulrica Johannson from Eagle-Vail, and I set out on a five-day ski adventure called the Imperial Haute Route. This ski tour began in Zermatt, Switzerland, and ended in the Swiss mountain village of Zinal.
Our group consisted of six skiers and two guides. I decided not to tell anyone I had MS because I did not want to compromise our tour and possibly be given any special treatment. I did worry about not being able to feel my legs if I got too tired, as well as dealing with bladder issues caused by MS. In the end, it worked out, and I achieved something I wasn’t sure I could do. Our group of six became quite close during this difficult, challenging adventure, and we all supported each other throughout the five days.
And away we go
The hut trip began in Zermatt —walking up the Bahnhofstrasse, backpacks filled with minimal clothing, crampons, shovel, probe, chocolate bars, ski crampons, avalanche beacon, harness, heading to the gondola. We rode up to the Scwartzee restaurant on the mountain, where we put on our skis and ventured off-piste to start our adventure. We would spend the first night at the Schonbiel Hut, located directly across from the Matterhorn.
One luxury of the Swiss hut system is that adventurers have caretakers who cook homemade meals at the huts as well as serve beer and wine.
Our guide mentioned this first day was an “easy day.” Turns out, the distance we traveled was not too far, but the difficulty of the skin was harder than I imagined. We were cutting across a slope with a steep drop to our right for a couple of miles. At this moment, I realized this was the type of trip I had been looking for. I would be out of my comfort zone and challenged to a degree I had not experienced before.
During the five-day tour, we traveled several kilometers on skis, experiencing breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps, skiing on glaciers with crevasses present throughout the journey. In addition to steep, difficult skinning throughout the trip, I was challenged by my first winter mountaineering experience on the third day. With crampons strapped to my ski boots, roped together with two others and our guide, we hiked up a steep couloir and traversed 300-yards across a magnificent knife-edge ridge. It was exhilarating and quite a personal accomplishment.
Telling the group about MS
The last night I told everyone I had MS and everyone was shocked. This was a difficult, challenging experience for everyone and everyone’s jaw dropped when I shared the news. Lots of tears were flowing and we celebrated our last night together at the Tracuit Hut. We were thankful for accomplishing this as a group and we all developed a strong special bond through this experience.
Words to Live By
Since I was diagnosed with MS, each and every day I think about “what I can do today,” and I live by this philosophy. When I was first diagnosed 10 years ago, I was having trouble with my legs, and my goal was simply to be able to walk around the block. It is important to set goals higher than you think you can achieve and don’t let MS rule your life. Simply put: live life in a positive manner.
Support Local Journalism
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User