Breckenridge kicks off 2014 ski season with honored guests and snowy opening |

Breckenridge kicks off 2014 ski season with honored guests and snowy opening

Marine Lance Corporal Colton Carlson carves through some fresh snow during opening day at Breckenridge. Carlson lost both of his lower legs after stepping on an IED while on tour in Afghanistan. He now snowboards black and double black diamonds on his two prosthetics — one above the knee the other below. Carlson was awarded first chair for the season for his service and to celebrate Veterans Day.
Sebastian Foltz / sfoltz@summitdaily |

For 24-year-old Colton Carlson, Friday’s opening day at Breckenridge Ski Resort was a tune-up. Like most first days back on the snow, it was about getting into the swing of things, getting dialed in for a new season — nothing too crazy, a few small jumps here and there, some wide carved turns and some gear adjustments. It’s just that Carlson’s snowboarding gear takes a little more fine-tuning than most.

You wouldn’t know it from watching him ride, but the Marine Corps lance corporal carves up the slopes on two prosthetics — one above the knee, the other below.

But the self-professed gear junkie doesn’t see it as a setback by any means.

“Honestly I think I’m better now than I was before the injury. I just have a little more equipment,” he said, adding that he’s always the last guy out of the lodge.

“Honestly I think I’m better now than I was before the injury. I just have a little more equipment.”
Lance Cpl. Colton Carlson

Carlson described his prosthetics as “kind of a cool aspect” of snowboarding and said he enjoys the challenge of tweaking settings to get the perfect setup for his riding.

“It’ll probably take me two or three more days to dial everything in to where I can throw it on and ride for a whole day,” he said.

Carlson was one of two guests of honor at Breckenridge Friday, getting to ride first chair with Breck local and recent Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame inductee C.J. Mueller.

“It was awesome,” Carlson said of the ceremony. “It was definitely a bigger production than I imagined. I guess I didn’t realize they’d have everybody backed up. I’ve never been to a first-chair opening day.”

With an annual opening around Veterans Day, Breckenridge has made it a tradition to select veterans to be a part of its season kickoff celebration.

“It was really inspiring to have Colton here today,” resort spokeswoman Kristen Petitt Stewart said. “It was very humbling. We’re opening a ski lift. He sacrificed his legs for our country. It’s the least we can do.”

After being a part of one of the first groups to respond to the Japanese tsunami that decimated a number of Pacific islands as well as portions of mainland Japan, Carlson stepped on an improvised explosive device while on tour in Afghanistan in May 2012, losing the lower halves of his legs as a result.

But after taking part in a number of adaptive-sports programs including The Hartford Ski Spectacular, in Breckenridge, Carlson relearned to snowboard to a point where he’s back to charging black and double-black diamonds and scouting jumps.

At this point, “It’s more natural than walking,” he said of snowboarding.


As part of opening-day festivities, Breckenridge COO Pat Campbell cut the ribbon christening the resort’s new Colorado SuperChair. Upgrading the previous high-speed quad, the new chair in the Peak 8 base area now seats six passengers per chair, increasing hourly capacity by 30 percent. The difference was noticeable as the long line prior to opening was barely half its original length throughout the morning. Breckenridge was able to open two runs from the SuperChair for opening day. Petitt Stewart said the resort doesn’t expect to open any new terrain this weekend, but snowmaking operations and natural snowfall could open more of Peak 8 early next week.


As the other honored guest, former world-record-holding speed skier C.J. Mueller also got the red-carpet treatment Friday.

“That was really great,” he said of the first chair honor to kick off his 44th season in Breckenridge. “I was pretty psyched. Skiing down that run, I had a big smile on my face.”

It might not have been the best opening day he could remember, he said, but it was right up there.

“The snow conditions are really great. The first couple runs were like velvet.”

Breckenridge reported receiving more than 30 inches leading up to opening with snow continuing throughout the day Friday.

“Hopefully, we’ll get more terrain going soon,” Mueller said after assessing conditions from the chair.

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