Don’t Forget to Stop and Smell the Roses
By Matthew Beaudin
Everyone has a ski story, but only one is like James Colt’s.
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 as it turns out, rocks don’t care much for who you are.
The rock dug through Colt’s skull, crashing into his cerebral cortex, which controls motor function. He was thrown into half-paralysis and spent months recovering in Grand Junction, CO. By every measure, Colt is lucky to be alive; doctors had to completely replenish his blood supply four times after the injury. That was six years ago. Last season James skied more than 100 days.
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. Before coming to the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program, many athletes have spent days, months, and years with their doubters. People telling them they can’t do things. Can’t stand. Can’t ski. Can’t rock climb. 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 consistently refuses rides to the lifts.
“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.
“I’m still seeing improvement,” James says. 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.’”
I’ve never doubted him.
Matthew Beaudin, BMC guide to Colorado, recently left his job as the editor of Telluride’s newspaper to work at the adaptive sports program. Stay tuned for his updates on Colorado and, from time to time, thoughts from his office.
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