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.”


We’ve just wrapped up our first day of skiing at Beaver Creek. It’s been an incredible day that saw three key themes emerge.IMG 0557 300x225 Trust, Teamwork And Inspiration At 11,000 Feet

Trust: After we got our gear, we drilled the verbal commands and cues our guides would use to help us ski safely down the mountain. We started on the blue, intermediate slopes to get familiar with the cadence and rhythm of listening for/reacting to our guide voices.

My ski legs came back pretty quickly. After a while, I could feel the vertical drop lines just as my guide called them out. It didn’t take us long to graduate to the black slopes, where I felt the euphoria and freedom of dropping into a line without fear. I’m told I hit 40 miles per hour a couple of times, which means I was flying.IMG 0563 300x225 Trust, Teamwork And Inspiration At 11,000 Feet

Teamwork: My lack of fear came from total faith and trust in my guide, dealer Brian Benstock, who was at my hip the entire time, and the rest of our group, which included my fellow blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer and his guide, Alex Taylor, executive vice president of Cox Enterprises and Lou Laste, senior director of public relations for Cox Automotive.

We worked the slopes together, with those of us who skied faster waiting for the rest of the group to catch up. Each of us kept an eye/ear out for the other—a collective commitment to each other that resulted in a day without any serious mishaps or injury, and a lot of laughing and smiling.

Inspiration:  Every time I’ve heard or been with Erik, he effectively shows me a door that I can open and find inspiration on the other side. On the slopes, Erik demonstrated a higher level of skiing proficiency than I ever achieved when I was actually able to see. His skiing is both deliberate and fast—he actively seeks out moguls that most others would avoid. IMG 0535 225x300 Trust, Teamwork And Inspiration At 11,000 Feet

In addition to his skill on skis, Erik offered a profound comment while we were on the chair lift. We were talking about why some people, like him, are able to overcome doubt and adversity, while others tend to languish.

Erik shared a Tibetan proverb that he first heard during a difficult stretch of his ascent to Mount Everest: “The nature of the mind is like water. If you do not disturb it, it will become clear.”

Alex also found our shared experience inspiring. About mid-way through the day, he called his mother to relay his experiences from the top of the mountain. He handed me the phone—yet another reminder that Cox Enterprises and Cox Automotive really are a family business.

As the evening turns to night, I must confess that I feel the age in my legs. But I’m looking forward to putting myself to the test again tomorrow, and making a truly moving and wonderful experience even better.

Finally, I have a personal request for all who are reading: Erik is a finalist for this year’s National Geographic Adventurer of the Year award. In true Chicago fashion, I would ask that you all vote early and often for Erik here, before the deadline arrives on Saturday.

Thank you.


Anticipation Builds In Beaver Creek

by dpollak on 01/28/2015 · 2 comments

I’m in Beaver Creek, at an outdoor bar at our hotel, near the fireplace. The smell of mesquite and the sounds of a band playing “Southern Man” by Neil Young fill the air.

It’s a perfect evening—a fitting set-up for what promises to be a memorable day on the slopes tomorrow.

I’m joined here by my inspiration, Erik Weihenmayer, my good friend and dealer, Brian Benstock of Paragon Honda, and Lou Laste, from Cox Automotive’s public relations team.

Together, we begin our “No Barriers” ski adventure with Erik in the morning. It looks like we’ll have great weather and plenty of good snow.

I’m almost itchy with anticipation and, quite frankly, I’m a little worried that I’ll be able to sleep tonight.

But even if I toss and turn, I won’t mind. What’s a little lost sleep on the eve of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a dream come true?




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