By Matthew Beaudin, Telluride Adaptive Sports Program
After a boulder fell from above while James was waiting to rock climb outside of Telluride in October of 2006, doctors told his family he’d probably never walk or talk again. This was a problem for James, who was a fluid mountain biker, skier, climber, builder … but rocks don’t care much for who you are, turns out.
The rock dug through his skull, crashing into his cerebral cortex, which controls motor function. James was thrown into half-paralysis and spent months recovering in Grand Junction. By every measure, Colt is lucky to be alive; doctors had to completely replenish his blood supply four times after the injury. James skied more than 100 days last season.
When people tell us we can’t do things, if we’re the right kind of person, we try to do them. It’s human nature. At the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program, athletes have spent days, months and years with their doubters, people telling them they can’t do things. Can’t ski, can’t rock climb. Can’t do it. You can’t walk you can’t ski you can’t stand. But at the adaptive program, they can. Of course they can.
People don’t say the word can’t around James much. Probably because he’d jump off the edge of the earth to prove them wrong. Colt skis Telluride every day possible, unapologetically. If someone is unlucky enough to be in the office when he’s suiting up, he’ll scold you for … working. Once, he looked into my office and said to me: “Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses once in a while.” Since I’d just started a new job, I decided I should sit tight and not even look at the roses.
Colt walks with a rigidity on one side of his body; as if he’s yet to erode the thick walls built by his brain injury. But you can find him walking to the lifts every day, his bright yellow jacket bobbing along. He refuses rides.
“Everybody tells me that god, or the universe, doesn’t give you things that you can’t handle,” Colt says. “So, therefore, I guess I’m a badass. Because they gave me a handful.”
His first year back, he skied three days, though his back hurt because of all the compensations he was making. After he got that worked out, “I did 100 days. Then 101. then 111,” Colt says.
You live in Colorado, or travel here to come skiing. Chances are, you consider it a birthright to be outdoors, to feel the cold wind on your face, to drink in a heavy blue sky.
Remember the first time you ever went FAST? Like, I’m flying and I’ve never been more perfect than in this moment I’m FLYING?!
That shouldn’t go away, even if you can’t walk, see or hear. At TASP, we take qualified people in mono-skis down terrain most able-bodied people won’t ski. We get people with traumatic brain injuries on snowboards and give them the feeling of sliding on snow. And you know what that’s like, otherwise you wouldn’t be here on this site dreaming of skiing, now would you?
TASP believes we’re all the same at heart, wanting to shove off into the oblivion of the ski mountain. We urge you to check out your local adaptive program or, even better, check out ours. We’re online at www.tellurideadaptivesports.org. We could use your support to keep making then outdoors a right for everyone, no matter what. Come visit us in Telluride, even.
“I’m still seeing improvement,” James said. He makes strong left turns, but his brain doesn’t like turning right. He can link turns, though, “Which means I’ll be able to ski anything I want. Then I can say, ‘Yea, Universe, I am a badass.’”
We don’t doubt him.