Tyler Divilio never thought of Snowboarding as being a possible career for him, but one trip to Breckenridge, Colorado, for Ski Spec and that all changed.
Divilio is an 18-year-old from Hauppauge, NY, with hopes to one day be a member of the U.S. Paralympic Snowboarding National Team. Divilio started snowboarding at the age of five, though it wasn’t ever easy for him, due to his uncommon condition of having right-side hemiparesis. When Divilio was six months old, his mother saw he was only using the left side of his body. Through an MRI they found out that he had a stroke while still in utero, causing the whole right side of his body to be weaker in motion and strength than his left. Divilio said that he needed to do Physical Therapy to build up muscle and strength, and continues to do it still to this day.
Divilio explains that his parents had him and his brother skiing at a young age. Divilio’s parents had started skiing in college and it became an important family activity. Divilio’s father, Joe, said, “Before Tyler was born we always talked about how great it would be to ski as a family.” When the family found out about Tyler’s diagnosis, the younger Divilio explained that one of his father’s first questions to the doctors was if he was going to be able to ski. “The doctor said he didn’t even know if I would be able to walk, let alone ski. But 18 years later I can do both!”
Although Divilio loves skiing, he found his passion for snowboarding but he didn’t realize how hard it was going to be to master. “I actually ran away from my first lesson, because I was really frustrated, but my dad really helped get me through it and basically taught me how to snowboard.” Divilio explains that his parents are major role models in his life. “They have been providing for me and believing in me since the beginning, even when I didn’t believe in myself.” Divilio says that his father has done a lot to help him achieve his dreams. One of Divilio’s recent dreams was to go to the University of Utah, which wasn’t even on Divilio’s radar until he attended Ski Spec in 2018.
Flashback to two years prior when Divilio first found out about Ski Spec from a friend, who recently was on the US Paralympics Ski Team. Divilio was becoming more interested in snowboard racing but didn’t know how to go about it. His friend told him to “go to Ski Spec!” It wasn’t until 2018 that he looked into it and signed up. “Ski Spec absolutely changed my life,” he said. “Once I was there my eyes kind of opened immediately to how awesome the event was.” Divilio was able to meet and work with Paralympians like Noah Elliot. He was the first Paralympic member that he met in Colorado. Elliot helped Divilio, by coaching him on carving and balance techniques and “little tips and tricks on how to be a better snowboarder on and off the snow.”
Divilio’s father said that he too was able to take advantage of the opportunities offered at Ski Spectacular. He explained that he was able to meet so many people to help get the ball rolling for Tyler. “My wife and younger son joined us at the end of the trip and were blown away with the event and how great it was for Tyler.” He explained that it was amazing for them to see how comfortable Tyler was at the event, socializing and interacting with other attendees and laughing about the day. Joe says he could see that Tyler was gaining confidence and ignited something in Tyler that wasn’t there before.
Interacting and being around other people with prosthetics helped Divilio figure out the path he wanted to study in school. “I want to help people design prosthetics and help military and cancer survivors and it all started because I went to ski spec.” Divilio met a lot of different people while in Breckenridge. While attending a Paralympian panel Colton Bradley, a coach from the National Ability Center (NAC) a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, pointed him towards Utah. Divilio initially laughed at the idea of going out and attending school in Utah but after Ski Spec he found himself thinking about it constantly. Eventually he found his way out there to visit the school and was able to go to the Snowbird Sports Education Foundation and try out for Team Utah. “Lane Chegg (the coach for the snowboard team) told me that I have what it takes, but it will be a lot of work. I’m ready for it.”
Divilio is in his freshman year at the University of Utah, majoring in biomedical engineering. He decided on going to Utah because he felt “there was so much support for adaptive sports and adaptive snowboarding here, that I just knew this is where I wanted to be.” On top of the schoolwork, Divilio will be training with the NAC and Team Utah at Snowbird. Divilio hasn’t done many events yet, since he is still new to the racing side of snowboarding. His main goal this season is to do more training on race courses. “I would love to do as much as possible and just try to get that experience under my belt.” Divilio has hopes to be able to do one race in both Idaho and Big White, Canada this season. Divilio’s father says to this day his wife still laughs about the first question he asked the doctor, but says “When he got diagnosed we thought we might not ever enjoy the sport again, now we can’t even keep up with Tyler.”