More hospitals are using a device invented in Steamboat Springs to help people with disabilities learn how to ski

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS โ€” Wes Dearborn dreams of someday putting a camper on the back of his work truck and driving around the country with the machine he invented to help people with disabilities learn to ski.

The Routt County resident would travel to hospitals treating patients with spinal cord injuries and other places where the machine could give others some hope.

“When I first built the Sit Ski Simulator, I thought I was just trying to teach skiing,” Dearborn said Tuesday. “The reality is I’m trying to save lives.”

Dearborn noted the high suicide rate amongst veterans, including those who come home from war with permanent injuries.

His machine has helped skiers who don’t have the use of their legs learn the basics of sit-skiing from the comfort of a chair off the slopes.

“These guys get really excited about their monoskiing,” Dearborn said. “It gives them something worth living for and excited about.”

The videos on Dearborn’s cellphone show the joy the machine can bring.

In one frame, Gene Gamber, an adaptive ski coach in Breckenridge, is grinning while testing it out.

Dearborn also saves text messages from those he has helped learn to ski.

Dearborn’s invention started out as a blueprint on a napkin at Steamboat’s Mahogany Ridge bar in 2015.

He was inspired to create it after witnessing how difficult it was to learn how to monoski.

Dearborn then called his water skiing buddy, Steve Harrison, to help create the device.

The first prototype was built in Harrison’s garage in Steamboat in 2012.

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Machine invented in Steamboat Springs helps disabled people get on the ski slopes

Steamboat Springs โ€” Eric Berkey was nervous about returning to the ski slopes as a quadriplegic.

“I was so used to being an able-bodied skier all my life, I didn’t know what to expect or if I’d be able to do it,” Berkey, 43, said Thursday at his room in Casey’s Pond. “I had some trepidations.”

In 2011, Berkey tripped on a fuel line and fell off his family’s boat while it was on a trailer in San Diego.

Restricted to a motorized wheelchair following his accident, the former ski patroller, who used to chase snowstorms in the Rocky Mountains, didn’t ski for nearly four years after his fall.

Then he moved to Steamboat Springs and met Wes Dearborn and Steve Harrison.

The men had a brand new invention that would help Berkey return to the slopes.

Eric Berkey uses the sit ski simulator at Casey’s Pond. Berkey, who was injured after falling off a boat in 2011, now skis weekly at the Steamboat Ski Area.

It’s called the sit ski simulator, and it allows someone to learn the basics of sit skiing from the warmth and comfort of their home.

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