Who’s There: Charlie Quist
December 5, 2005
When doctors first told Breckenridge resident Charlie Quist that he would never walk again, never ski again, he believed them.”I sold all my ski equipment, gave it all away or sold it after that,” Quist said.At age 13 in 1976, Quist was enjoying a day-after-Christmas powder day with some friends at his local ski hill in Pittsfield, Maine. He attempted a Daffey – a jump where the skier puts one ski straight up and one ski straight down – and he caught his down tip. From the fall, he broke the third, fourth and fifth vertebrae in his neck and was paralyzed from the shoulders down.
He spent the next four months in the hospital. But it wasn’t long before Quist was proving doctors wrong.”As soon as I got out of the hospital,” he said. “I wanted to be active again. I was on my dirt bike, still in my neck brace, at 14.”Quist then began to ski again – racing for his high school ski team.
But more accidents were on the horizon. The day before his high school graduation, he broke his neck a second time while jumping a ditch on his motor bike. He broke his neck three more times after that, once in 1984 from a fall down the stairs; in 1987 while racing motocross in Maine and the last time on a mountain bike in Breckenridge. He persisted, though. “You still gotta live life. If you sit around watching TV all day, how are you going to keep your strength up?” he said. “If you can do stuff, you gotta do it and be active.”This mindset and demeanor led Quist to the disabled ski racing circuit. He was asking around at NorAm races at the Sugarloaf Ski Resort in Maine and met a girl on the U.S. Disabled Ski Team. She got him in touch with Disabled Sports USA and soon was he racing slalom and giant slalom in New Hampshire.
Quist said he traveled to any race they put on and went to his first U.S. Disabled Ski Nationals in 1993 at Beaver Creek – his first time on the slopes in Colorado. He trained for two years on the Winter Park Disabled Sports Team and during the summers with the Wannaki Ski Team in New Zealand. Quist continued ski racing until 2002. Now he says he’s enjoying Colorado life.”I like it here – like to ski, like to play, like to hike, like to mountain bike, like the snow, like the cold air.”