A series of major injuries have driven Steamboat Springs ski racer David Lamb, shown here in front of bulletin boards piled deep with skiing memories, away from the world of skiercross. Today, he is pursuing a career as a financial planner with Edward Jones.

Photo by John F. Russell

A series of major injuries have driven Steamboat Springs ski racer David Lamb, shown here in front of bulletin boards piled deep with skiing memories, away from the world of skiercross. Today, he is pursuing a career as a financial planner with Edward Jones.

Steamboat skier moving forward after rash of injuries

David Lamb preparing for life's next steps off the slopes

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— The walls in David Lamb's room tell part of the story.

The ribbons and medals on one wall are piled together like coats on a rack. Move to the adjacent wall, and trophies fill a bookshelf. His desk has two national championship rings from his time skiing at the University of Denver. Each tells a story of conquest - a story of one of Steamboat's brightest young skiers with endless potential.

But the farther you move down the walls, the more you understand.

Enough books for a small library sit on top of a television stand. Classics. Plato and Shakespeare make up a large portion. There are books about life, philosophy and money.

"Yeah, reading is another one of my passions," Lamb said.

It's only four walls, but it starts to tell the story of Lamb.

Like so many others, Lamb had the dream of making the Olympics. He was on the fast track to stardom. But injuries started to pile up, maybe the last one being the scariest. So after what Lamb calls the most trying year of his life, he's attempting to complete the not-so-easy task of walking away from the sport.

"It took endless hours of rehab to get to a place where I'm completely functional," Lamb said. "It took a long time. I hate, more than anything in this world, not being able to be physically active. It showed me what I don't want. It pushed me to something higher. I'm ready to create a life for myself."

Fateful day in January

Lamb was on the U.S. Ski Team, but he left in 2000 after coming off a severe back injury. He left the team to go ski and to get an education at DU. Two national titles later, Lamb was back looking for international glory.

He found the hot new - and what would become devastating - sport of skiercross. It's a sport with multiple skiers flying down the mountain over rollers and jumps like a pair of socks in a dryer.

After recovering from completely tearing his right knee, Lamb was training for a skiercross World Cup last January in France. He rolled off a double jump, and his head whipped back and knocked him out. Lamb went down the rest of the course unconscious and face-first. He was taken to the wrong hospital, where there was concern that paramedics may have done more damage to his neck. It was the third time in his career he'd woken up in an ambulance because of a concussion.

"The fall in France scared me," Lamb said, "and I've never been scared before. Our minds are such an asset."

Luckily for Lamb, his neck wasn't broken - but the concussion was so bad, he couldn't walk for six weeks. He had trouble remembering a lot of things, including his own name. Lamb admits he was in a dark place. He wanted to compete badly, but there was no way the U.S. Ski Team's doctors would clear him. The head doctor for the team ran Lamb through countless cognitive tests.

He failed every single one.

One more try

On his own, Lamb tried to make a comeback. He headed to Sun Valley, Idaho, for a ski tour. On his first day of training, Lamb flew off-course and went into the fence.

He admits his mind still wasn't completely there from the crash in France. The crash in Idaho tore up his right knee again.

Lamb found himself in peril, asking himself whether he should rehab again and make another run or try to walk away from the sport he's loved since he was a child.

"There were family issues, physical issues and financial issues," Lamb said. "A month and a half ago was a real low time for me. It made me redefine what was important to me. I'd been through some bad periods, but I was going to pick myself up and walk with my head high. I really wanted to believe things truly happen for a reason."

Lamb started calling old teammates that had left the sport to see just how they walked away.

One of those calls was made to Chris Puckett.

A new beginning

After talking with Puckett, Lamb realized there was an opportunity to come back to Steamboat as a financial advisor with Edward Jones. Puckett, who has worked with Edward Jones for almost two years, said he knew Lamb would be perfect for the job.

"Being successful is all based on individual effort," Puckett said. "He's a natural fit. I'm excited. I know our company feels like they can have two people in this town."

Although Lamb is still a couple months and tests away from becoming a financial advisor, he said for the first time in awhile, things seem as though they're coming together.

Looking back, he said his decision to leave the U.S. Ski Team in 2000 and get his degree in finance from DU proved to be one of the best decisions he made.

It not only gave him a degree, it's where he grew up the most.

"Without that degree, some kids don't have anything to fall back on," said Kurt Smitz, Lamb's coach while he was at DU. "They become like a heavyweight fighter and believe there is always one more fight. They end up having nothing to fall back on. I think David understood as much as the ski racing was a part of his life, if it all falls apart, he can go out into the world and take care of himself."

Looking to the future

Even when he was at his lowest, Lamb always could come back to the walls in his room. The ribbons, the medals and the trophies all bring back memories of success.

Although he's not totally done with skiing - he's doing some work with a startup ski business in Silverthorne, talks about competing on the Big Mountain Circuit next year and would be open to coaching young children at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club - he understands most of that is in the past.

What's not in the past is what it took inside of Lamb to win all those awards on his walls.

"Looking at all the medals and trophies means a lot," Lamb said. "I never burned out on it, and it never left a bad taste in my mouth. I miss it more than anything in the world. There's nothing better than going up on (a) bluebird beautiful morning or seeing new places, but I have to remember that is what it was. : I'm ready to start considering raising a family and growing into the community that gave so much to me."

- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com

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