Joel Reichenberger: Local became a celebrity

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Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Joel here.

Craig Kennedy was riding up the Christie Peak Express chairlift Thursday morning when a local living legend skied underneath the chairs.

"Hey Billy!" Kennedy shouted, earning a quick smile and a wave from Steamboat's cowboy-hat-clad ambassador, Billy Kidd.

"Have fun up there," Kidd hollered back.

Well-known people are everywhere here. You can't swing a ski in Steamboat without hitting a former Olympian. A ski-season trip to Lincoln Avenue's bars isn't complete without rumors of some Hollywood star who has always "just" left.

Still, to some, star-spotting doesn't involve anyone you'd likely see on E!, and Steamboat had at least one such hero riding up the Christie lift Thursday.

Kennedy was a 23-year-old ski area employee when he sustained a life-changing injury. He was skiing down after a day of work and fell awkwardly after flying over a cat track. He landed hard on the work boots in his backpack.

In that moment, he became a young man without the use of his legs in a town that finds seemingly unlimited ways to exercise those appendages.

Still, the outpouring of local support convinced him to stay in Steamboat.

It was obvious Thursday that Kennedy is heart, mind and soul a Steamboat native.

"Maybe it was when we were in the moguls the other day," he said, trying to figure out why the seat on his sit-ski was out of alignment. "I've been pretty rough on it this year."

He went on to explain that he can guide his ski down nearly any run on the mountain. He can handle plenty of terrain off the mountain, as well. He led the way Friday for a day of competitive powder skiing on Buffalo Pass.

Kennedy, teamed in nearly every effort with his wife Andrea, was instrumental in helping Mount Werner become more handicap accessible. The camp he helps put on every year - this year's four-day disability ski camp wrapped up Thursday - has continually grown and this year was at capacity.

That didn't stop organizers from squeezing in one more.

Anthony Regole, 18, lost the use of his legs two winters ago after black ice sent his vehicle off a north Wisconsin highway.

He worked through rehabilitation in Denver, his mother Gretchen at his side. They kept hearing about wonderful adaptive sports opportunities provided by a couple somewhere up in the mountains.

No word on whether the Regoles would be able to pick Billy Kidd out of a lineup. They, however, were thrilled to meet Craig Kennedy.

"Being able to meet Craig and his wife - they are amazing," Gretchen Regole said. "These people work so hard to bring sports to people and to make everything accessible. It's amazing."

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