At 65 and Legally Blind, ‘Sister Shred’ Has Never Met a Slope She Wouldn’t Ride


Even when Sister Shred isn’t donning a nun Halloween costume, she doesn’t match the everyday mildew of a daredevil dropping off boulders on a mountain bike or carving steep slopes and deep powder on a ski bike.

However any probability she will get, Kris Nordberg, 65, also called Sister Shred, will do precisely that, regardless of a uncommon vascular situation that has rendered her legally blind.

By using along with her head turned to the facet, she will use her peripheral imaginative and prescient to make out folks forward of her on the path and shapes and colours. And, for essentially the most half, that’s sufficient to maintain her in search of adrenaline-fueled adventures.

As a result of she now not drives, Nordberg pedals to her neighborhood trails within the foothills west of Denver when she needs to go for a experience. There are just a few occasions, although, when an help from different riders turns out to be useful.

When she encounters a very difficult part of a path — as an example, a rock staircase with jagged boulders that might snag a entrance wheel and ship a rider over a motorbike’s handlebars — she typically asks strangers for steerage. She carries a vivid orange strap and politely asks different riders if they may use it to mark the trail of least resistance.

Scott Ehresman, Nordberg’s greatest buddy and biking buddy, leads her via such sections once they experience collectively. Whereas Nordberg reveals no concern when tackling rock staircases, drops and boulders, Ehresman, who’s normally filming the motion, continually frets that she’s going to damage herself.

However even when she does, it doesn’t cease her from getting again on trails. Ehresman mentioned he has witnessed her using over slim bridges and rocky precipices, alongside knifelike cliff edges the place one false transfer would imply a 2,000-foot fall, via deep powder and avalanche-prone terrain on a ski bike in Colorado’s backcountry.

Ehresman, 42, met Nordberg within the Nineteen Nineties, when she was his supervisor at UPS. They started car-pooling to work and discussing their hobbies. Nordberg satisfied Ehresman, an avid climber and a former member of the U.S. climbing crew, to attempt mountain biking.

“At the start, I used to be terrified,” Ehresman mentioned. “She was taking place super-steep dust hills.”

They started taking journeys collectively three or 4 occasions per week — and, as Ehresman’s abilities improved, their roles reversed.

“I used to be getting higher and higher,” Ehresman mentioned. “In some unspecified time in the future, it switched. I ended up teaching her. I began taking place stuff she had by no means achieved.”

However Nordberg, he mentioned, was fearless.

“She was using some loopy stuff,” he mentioned. “She took some nasty crashes.”

Nordberg has beloved biking for so long as she will bear in mind. Rising up in Buffalo, Minn., about 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis, she bought her first bike when she was 12, utilizing it for a day by day paper route.

“It was a type of Schwinn five-speeds with a banana seat,” she mentioned. “I had my paper route from ages 12 to 17, 12 months a yr. It received beneath zero continually within the Minnesota winter, however while you’re a child, climate doesn’t trouble you a lot.”

Nordberg used the cash she earned from her paper route to purchase a snowmobile when she was 15, then a 10-speed Schwinn when she was 17. She spent all her free time outdoor.

“I’d experience my bike to the lake, swim, construct tree homes and go shoot BB weapons,” she mentioned. “I used to be at all times that lady who appreciated hanging out with the blokes.”

She headed off to St. Cloud State College with desires of turning into a highschool trainer, however there have been no jobs to be discovered after she graduated. A buddy satisfied Nordberg to maneuver to Snowmass, Colo., the place she labored for a number of years as a housekeeper at a resort and found mountain biking and snowboarding. Someday, on a whim, she determined to hit the slopes carrying a nun costume she had from a previous Halloween.

“It was only a enjoyable factor to do,” Nordberg mentioned. “I’d put on it taking part in hockey, too. They known as me the holy goalie. While you put on a nun costume snowboarding, folks discover you. Some folks began calling me Sister Shred.”

The moniker caught.

However after shifting to the Denver space, Nordberg realized there was one thing amiss along with her imaginative and prescient.

“It was my fortieth and I used to be going for an I’m-not-old birthday experience,” she mentioned. “I checked out an indication and it was a bit of blurry. I had a bleed in my eye and double imaginative and prescient.”

She visited a dermatologist a few yr and a half later, who delivered a prognosis: Pseudoxanthoma elasticum, a progressive genetic dysfunction that, for Nordberg, has prompted the lack of her eyesight in addition to ache and weak spot in her legs. In 2012, she had three femoral artery alternative surgical procedures in a three-month interval.

In 2009, Nordberg stopped driving as her imaginative and prescient continued to deteriorate. And after so many surgical procedures on her legs, she added a pedal-assist electrical mountain bike to her storage a few years in the past. Whereas she doesn’t experience as many death-defying trails, she nonetheless loves rolling via jagged rock gardens and shredding powder on her ski bike. On her sixtieth birthday — clad in her nun costume for the event, in fact — she jumped over her first tabletop in a motorbike park.

So long as Ehresman or one other one among her using buddies — who’re all male and, typically, greater than 20 years youthful than her — are prepared to drive her there and cleared the path, she’s nonetheless desirous to experience any rugged single-track or backcountry snow line. Providing up her personal bikes, Nordberg has taught Ehresman’s teenage daughters learn how to experience. They’ve recognized her all of their lives as Sister Shred.

“She likes to cheer everybody on,” Ehresman mentioned. “She needs everybody to attempt issues they perhaps don’t assume they’ll do.”

Though she won’t shred fairly as a lot as she used to, Nordberg nonetheless embraces the small wins.

“You recognize that feeling of victory?” she mentioned. “I nonetheless crave that. It’s a must to do what you may and never be upset about what you may’t do. I’ve had extra journey in my life than lots of people.”