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Unlimbited Potential

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For the average skier, the thought of a double-black diamond run in thigh-deep powder down a mountain with a 1,193 foot vertical might give them a moment of hesitation. Pedro Moiola however, is anything but average. The 17-year-old high school senior from Elko, Nevada went to Park City Mountain Resort with the hope of conquering McConkey’s bowl. Unlike most skiers that tackle the expert terrain, Pedro Moiola mastered the challenge with one leg.

Pedro was diagnosed with osteosarcoma when he was eight-years-old. Doctors tried to save his leg, but after four years of failed treatments Pedro had his right leg amputated above the knee at age 12. The next year was not easy, Pedro had trouble walking with his new prosthetic and soon found himself at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Salt Lake City for physical therapy. At his first appointment Pedro learned about the Un-limb-ited Ski and Snowboard Camp. Despite the challenges of never having skied before, a camp start date that was less than a week away and a 250-mile commute Pedro made the trip to Park City, Utah. 

With the exception of his first lesson, skiing came naturally to Pedro, “I remember my first day on skis.  I fell on every single turn during my first three runs.”  A lot has changed since then, but the reason Pedro keeps coming back to camp every year hasn’t, “Camp has been a great place to get to know other amputees.  I live in such a small community, so there’s not really anyone my age that can really relate to me.”

Every year the Un-limb-ited camp brings together 12 teenage amputees from different communities. This year the teens came from Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada and Arizona. They each have their own personal story of an accident, infection or congenital defect, but they share a common bond as amputees. For instance Christa Anderson lost her foot in a lawn mowing accident when she was four-years-old, although to watch the 16-year-old snowboard, you’d never guess she was wearing a prosthetic, “It helps me deal with my prosthetic in different ways and it helps me learn how other people deal with their prosthetic.  I always go away with new friendships.”

Each teen is professionally fitted with boots, goggles, helmets, snowboards, skis and outriggers before heading to the mountain. Each participant also received private lessons from National Ability Center instructors every morning and group lessons in the afternoon throughout the five-day camp.  Staff from Shriners Hospitals were also on hand as camp counselors. The team included nurses, prosthetists, therapists and a social worker.

Amputees often have to battle perceptions of what they can and can’t do.  At camp the teens learned the only real limits they face are the ones they place on themselves. Camp Co-Director Matt Lowell says a missing limb is no reason to miss out on life, “It just means they have to some things differently and find ways to adapt.  It doesn’t mean they are going to do it.”

Pedro Moiola is proof that different can even be better. He not only does things he didn’t think would be possible after he lost his leg, he’s doing them better than people with two legs  He skis, rock climbs and wants to try skydiving next. Pedro has unlimited potential and that’s really the reason for the Un-limb-ited camp.  For one week… 12 teenage amputees explore a mountain on skis and snowboards, but what they learn is that there’s a whole world out there waiting to be discovered.