On Wednesday, February 13, Craig and Hawkeye were privileged to ski with 2016 GoHawkeye leg recipient Cactus Moser on his return to Telluride as a participant in the Bartlett/Mannino Amputee Ski Camp. This is a dedicated group of amputees determined to ski on two legs while sharing research and development, education and instruction and good camaraderie while skiing great conditions at the Telluride Ski Area
Cactus received the BTK Crossover Knee in the 2016 GoHawkeye Leg Up contest. This mechanical multi-sport leg was developed by Brian Bartlett of Leftside Industries and Fabtech Systems. The leg can be used for different sports with some simple adjustments. It’s waterproof and dirtproof and has a walk or sports mode. Prosthetist Greg Mannino, Skiing hall-of-fame inductee from Montrose, CO worked with Brian Bartlett to make any adjustments and lead this camp.
“I could not be more blessed and grateful to be receiving the BTK Crossover Knee. When you become an amputee you join a unique group of brothers and sisters who together turn the loss of a limb into a mark of pride. I am honored to be able to represent an innovative company by wearing this knee and showcasing the amazing work that they do to help amputees return to their previous functional and active lifestyles.” -Cactus Moser
At 4 am the next day, I was awakened from a surgery that had not only rebuilt my left hand but had also begun the arduous process of cleaning out what was left of my left leg. One of my first thoughts in that hospital bed, besides “I want water”, was, “How am I going to ski again?” Life was going to go on, miraculously. Since I am a musician and had won awards as a horseman, I also questioned if I would ever play an instrument or ride my beloved horses again. However, most on my mind was how I was ever going to ski a blanket of pure white snow again. There is peace and exhilaration in snow and skiing that is like no other feeling on Earth. Daydreams of flying through the wind and snow of the Colorado mountains got me through many painful and confusing days while I was recovering.
I spent months doing rehab before I was able to get myself into a small closet in our house and sit behind a drum set. I will never forget the first simple little beats I was able to play. They were all I could muster at the time but notes from John Bonham of Led Zepplin reverberated in my head, reinvigorating my passion and desire to perform. A few months after finally getting back on stage, I was able to get back up on a horse. Slowly, I was regaining the active lifestyle that I loved so much. The only thing that I continued to miss and that I eagerly waited for, was that day that I would hear a binding click into place and once again feel myself glide at one with pair of skis.
Telluride, CO is where my life started as a kid, following cattle around on a ranch in the same mountains that would become the Telluride ski area. After 2 ½ years of waiting, those beloved mountains would be exactly where I was given the gift of skiing again. Through a friend, I was introduced to the staff at the Telluride adaptive sports program and an incredible instructor named Hawkeye. In the beginning, I learned to ski on one leg. Never did I imagine how hard that would be! It was like being 7 years old and reliving my very first lesson. However, despite the initial pain and anguish, I finally accomplished a goal that I had set for myself laying in that hospital bed after the wreck. I was exhilarated!
After 3 days of working to master skiing on one leg, I was introduced to a guy from my birth town of Montrose, CO who works closely with Left Side Industries. He told me about a prosthetic leg that would enable me to ski on 2 legs again. I couldn’t believe it! I watched videos of the leg and I was, and still am, in shock at how the knee replicated actual flesh and bone. I had an overwhelming desire to know what that leg would feel like as I glided down the slopes. It would be the realization of a Colorado boy’s dream come true!
I see the world through a different set of eyes as an amputee. I would never have guessed on that August afternoon in South Dakota that so much would change. It’s a special and interesting club. None of us would choose it, but once you’re in, it’s solidarity among a group of people who are dedicated creating a better life for themselves. To have the prosthetic technology that we have today is beyond glorious. Adaptive sports programs such as Telluride adaptive sports and people like Hawkeye are the exact Angels it takes to give us life back. And to give it back more abundantly.