Kiwi ex-racer helps heal injuries |

Kiwi ex-racer helps heal injuries

SILVERTHORNE – Kate Reaney knows about sports injuries – inside and out. As an ex-World Cup racer, she’s healed from plenty of her own. Now she helps others recover – in and out of the operating room.

Born in New Zealand, Reaney grew up with a Norwegian mother and a father who explored the Antarctic yearly. Both skied and brought Reaney and her younger sister to ski areas every weekend beginning when the kids were 3.

Lip balm and a can of Coke lured Reaney into ski racing. At age 11, the self-described tomboy ran gates when her friend told her anyone who entered the race received “lip smacker” and a Coke.

“I didn’t know anything about racing,” Reaney said. “It was amazing that I went around the poles the right way.”

She ended up winning the race, and a ski coach invited her to train with the team. She fell in love with racing and spent summer vacations (in December and January) training with Ski Club Vail from age 13 to 18.

She made the New Zealand ski team during high school and spent about four years traveling among New Zealand, Europe and Colorado racing through the endless winters.

She competed in the 1991 World Alpine Championships in Saalbach, Austria, and the 1992 Vail World Cup super-G. She made the New Zealand Olympic reserve team in 1992 but broke her arm around the same time.

After 16 endless winters, her interest in helping others heal from sports-related injuries began to override her love for racing.

“I always wanted to become a physician assistant (PA) because I’d been injured a lot, and I liked what they did,” she said. “I loved being able to related to people who are injured and upset and help them turn it around and get back to what they want to do. When I do something, I put out 120 percent. If I don’t feel my heart’s in it, I (think), “Why bother?’ If you don’t put 100 percent into it, that’s a recipe for failure.”

At age 21, Reaney stopped racing and put her 120 percent effort into schoolwork.

She graduated at the top of her class with a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology and sports biomechanics. Since New Zealand doesn’t employ PAs, she applied to George Washington University in Washington D.C. for her master’s degree. She flew in for her interview and ended up staying for the winter ski season. The following fall, in 1999, she entered the university and graduated in 2001 as an Alpha Eta honor student with a master’s degree in health sciences and PA.

Rather than becoming a doctor, she wanted to be a PA because she felt she could have more impact on people and spend more time with them.

“After graduating, I came to Colorado because I had such happy memories,” Reaney said. “I enjoy the people and the geography. People here are a lot like people in New Zealand. They love the outdoors, and they’re open-minded and fun-loving.”

Reaney diagnoses patients in the Vail Summit Orthopedics and Sports Medicine clinic and assists orthopedic surgeons in the operating room. She spends half of her time working in the Vail office and half of her time in Frisco.

“With respect to injuries, what aids a lot of people when they’re recovering is to focus on what they can do instead of what they can’t do,” she said. “I’ve learned through my injuries that when I had to take a season off, I thought I’d come back more sluggish, but I had a better season than I ever had because of dry land training and sharpening my mental skills. It’s important to focus on what you have rather than on what you don’t have.”

Her dedication to her career shines through whenever she mentions her work, and it’s a good thing, because she spends most of her winter hours taking care of injured skiers, boarders and tourists.

“When I was ski racing, that’s all I did, and it’s kind of like that with work, especially in the ski season,” she said. “I like to work hard, but at the moment, I seek to find a balance between my lifestyle, my friends and my career.”

Her plans for the future are to stay in the health-care industry.

“I don’t know what my plans are for the long term, because I definitely enjoy summer,” she said. “I enjoy doing activities I couldn’t do because I was ski racing. I love to fly (she has a student pilot’s license), golf, hike and waterski. I also miss my family. I see them once or twice a year.”

Right now, her main concern is simply living life fully.

“When I was racing, I just loved what I was doing,” she said. “The most important thing to do is to live in the moment and enjoy what you’re doing so you don’t miss life. I just don’t want to grow up and be 60 and wonder where my life has gone.”

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at

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