Time To Give Thanks For A Life-Changing Gift

January 30, 2015

Our final day here at Beaver Creek started as soon as the slopes opened. It’s been another picture-perfect day on the mountain, with mild temperatures, plenty of sunshine and relatively uncrowded runs.

As I rode the lifts today, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the opportunity to take part in this life-changing experience with blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer. It’s a gift that ranks among the most precious I’ve received in my lifetime.

There are a lot of people who merit a public thank-you for making my adventure in Beaver Creek possible:

Our ski guides. Jeff Ulrich and Rob Leavitt truly are the “secret sauce” that enables two blind guys to repeatedly and successfully ski black diamond slopes. Both are top-shelf individuals, the kind who would sacrifice themselves if it meant keeping us safe. They also lead interesting lives—Jeff is a golf pro in Colorado Springs, and Rob is a ski instructor at Aspen and councilman for the nearby city of Basalt.

Our can-do creative crew: We had two guys from Boulder-based Buck Ross Productions—Ryan “Buck” Cross and Matt Silton—filming us as we rode the mountain. They seemed to defy gravity on their snowboards as they shot in front of us, behind us, off to our sides…their movements reminded me of ballet, except these two were heading backwards down the mountain at 40 miles an hour.

Our Cox Automotive leadership, support teams. I owe much to Cox Enterprises executive vice president Alex Taylor and CEO John Dyer, as well as Sandy Schwartz, head of Cox Automotive. They instantly embraced the idea of adopting Erik’s “No Barriers” approach to life and business within our organization, and they encouraged me to join Erik here in Beaver Creek this week. I’m also indebted to Cox Automotive’s events team, including director Christina Zara and senior event planner Thais Toro. They provided invaluable support in arranging our activities and accommodations.

Our ski group. I’m grateful that Alex Taylor, dealer Brian Benstock of Paragon Honda and Lou Laste from Cox Automotive’s PR team could join us. In particular, I’m especially thankful to know that Brian Benstock always had my back on the mountain, helping steer others clear of a blind guy who’s rekindled a need for speed on the slopes.

Our inspiration. I’ve never met anyone like Erik Weihenmayer, and I’m ever-thankful that our paths crossed, and we had the opportunity to be and ski together this week. I also owe a great thank-you to Erik’s assistant, Skyler Williams, who has that behind-the-scenes knack to make things happen, often before anyone else knew they would be needed.

I’m looking forward to seeing how our “No Barriers” experience in Beaver Creek will serve to inspire others throughout the Cox organization and beyond in the coming months.

In the meantime, I’m heading back to my skis. We just finished lunch and Erik said, “I’m exhausted. Let’s take it up a notch.”