Steamboat Springs There were times Montana Dalman wanted to quit.
Each tumble in the snow was frustrating, and she was losing energy quickly.
But as the morning went on, the 14-year-old girl who was adapting to skiing on one leg kept following instructor Chris Babcock's advice.
"Just one more run. You'll get it after one more run."
Just before noon, she did.
Montana carved four perfect turns at the base of Steamboat Ski Area and was greeted with cheers at the end of the run.
“It's just making a lot more sense now,” Montana said about her adaptive skis.
Montana's rare form of bone cancer took her left leg but not her ability to ski or her quick sense of humor.
“I think I'm going to make my friends (back in Michigan) who just use two skis jealous,” she said.
Tuesday was a day of breakthroughs for Montana and the more than 20 other children from across the country who traveled to Steamboat Springs with the Sunshine Kids program.
For the past eight years, the nonprofit organization has taken children who are being treated for cancer to Steamboat to enjoy a week of skiing, tubing and revelry.
They were greeted by ski area employees who had yellow sunshine pins on their jackets and yellow bandanas proclaiming that the kids were “tough as a rock.”
The trip allows the kids, and the doctors who treat them, to interact in a setting much more vibrant and relaxed than the hospitals in their hometowns.
“I see them when they're the sickest they've ever been in their lives,” Nancee Kramer, a nurse who treats some of the children, said as she watched Montana ski. “It's really rewarding to see them at this phase and in this setting. They're surviving the intense treatment. Their resilience is there. They're having fun.”
Kramer traveled to Steamboat with Montana and three other kids who are being treated at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“I feel like I'm part of a community here,” Montana said about her first trip with the Sunshine Kids. “I have friends back home that understand a lot of what I'm going through. But there are people here who can talk about the kinds of drugs we take and the treatments we've had. We all have a deeper understanding of our lives.”
Montana is past the more intense parts of her cancer treatment, and back home, she's a passionate member of the Science Olympiad, a creative sketcher and an avid singer.
Farther up the mountain Tuesday, other Sunshine Kids were celebrating breakthroughs.
Mariah “Ducky” Ackerman, who is being treated for leukemia back home in Michigan, learned to quickly conquer the steep slopes she once thought were intimidating with Izaac Kinnison, a fifth-grader at Soda Creek Elementary School who successfully battled a brain tumor.
“It's cool to be able to get up here and show them around the place,” Izaac said on the gondola ride up to Thunderhead.
The trip continues this week with a slew of events, including snowmobile rides at Saddleback Ranch, shopping in downtown Steamboat and a sleigh ride dinner.
The week culminates with the Winter Games at Bashor Terrain Park at the ski area.
“They're getting to come out here and conquer the mountain,” Jennifer Wisler, director of children’s services for Sunshine Kids, said Tuesday. “They can beat cancer. They can conquer this mountain. They can go on to live their lives and still have fun.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com