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Skier Trusts His Father’s Voice

Jacob Smith, is a 15-year-old legally blind freeride skier. Jacob has extreme tunnel vision--and no depth perception on top of that. What he does see is blurry. His visual acuity is rated 20/800, four times the level of legal blindness. Think of the big E on the eye chart. He would need it to be blown up four times in order to see it from 20 feet away.

So how does Jacob ski like this? His family keeps him on course. On competition days, Jacob’s little brother, Preston, patiently helps him hike to the top of the venue. It's so high, the lifts won't take you there. Then his father, Nathan, helps him get down. Jacob has a two-way radio turned up high in his pocket. His dad is on the other end at the base, somehow, calmly, guiding him down.

His father, Nathan Smith, said:

It's on me to make sure I don't let him down. I have to guide him through narrower chutes or not go off a cliff. Jacob is not reckless. He knows his limitations. I think he has the ability to ski anything on the mountain, but he's not gonna go try to do it by himself. Like, he wants to be with somebody who he trusts. He won't ski with people he doesn't trust.

When Jacob was asked how much he trusted his father, he replied, “I mean, enough to turn right when he tells me to.”

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