Army Veteran Tina Lavallee is no stranger to the slopes. She has fond memories of
snowboarding and taking her children skiing any chance she could.
But that changed when she was gravely injured after tumbling down a flight of stairs on duty as an Army recruiter. Displays, pamphlets and some Army equipment to show prospective recruits fill her arms, making the fall even more damaging.
"I thought I could carry more stuff at once, and I shouldn't have," recalled Lavallee, who served during Operation Desert Storm. "And I just hit my toe on that metal trim on the steps, which caused me to slip."
With her arms clutched, Lavallee hit her head on the wall and she landed on the final three steps. Her skull fractured, which has caused a lifetime of memory issues and seizures and cracked eight vertebrae in her spine.
The injury also left her partially paralyzed.
"I have no feeling on my left leg whatsoever, and I don't feel my fingertips on my left hand," she added.
Lavallee cannot walk but is able to stand with the aid of crutches and braces.
She retired from the Army in 2000 after recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Lavallee thought her time of cutting through halfpipes was over when her daughter-in-law saw an advertisement for the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in a magazine. She decided to take that leap of faith and see what the clinic could offer her and other disabled Veterans.
She said that what she found was life-changing and reinvigorated her passion for winter sports. This is her third year in Snowmass, and she encourages Veterans of all stripes to get off the sidelines and get back to a sense of normalcy.
"I tell people all the time they should try participating in the Winter Sports Clinic because you don't feel crippled," she said. "When I'm skiing, I'm the same as everybody else on the mountain."
"I'm just going down the mountain with the wind in my face and just having a grand old time," added Lavallee. "And it is so freeing, and you get so much more confidence by being able to do those things."