Prescription: Skiing, and lots of it
Summit County, CO Colorado
In 2001, when John Timmons fell off a roof in a construction accident, his left foot landed on a boulder, shattering his talus bone. He also broke his tibia and fibula in about 25 places.
After two surgeries and 18 months of physical therapy, his foot only gained 7 percent of its normal range of motion. His surgeon told him he’d be pushing a walker in two or three years if he sat around and didn’t work his leg and ankle joint. Oddly enough, Timmons was somewhat relieved to hear that, because he’s an active, outdoor kind of guy. So he followed Dr. Peter Janes’s suggestion to walk or lightly hike two to three times a week. When Timmons asked about skiing, one of his passions, Janes gave him a prescription to try no more than five runs out for a day.
After four runs, Timmons’ quads gave out, due to inactivity. But that night, his foot felt comfortable and warm for the first time since his accident.
“There was blood flow instead of it being lifeless,” he said.
The next week, Timmons returned to Janes for measurements.
“He took the measurements, then took off his glasses and cleaned them,” Timmons said. “Then he took the measurements a second time, and rubbed his eyes vigorously. Then took the measurements a third time and said, ‘you’re a frickin’ miracle.'”
Timmons’ measurements showed his foot had 75 percent of the usual range of motion in all four directions.
Needless to say, Janes wrote him another prescription, this time to ski 10 runs twice a week. Timmons completed the runs, returned the following week and discovered his measurements improved by 60 percent from the previous week. Janes encouraged him to ski or hike lightly three to four days a week, year-round, to maintain use of his ankle.
As of today, Timmons has skied 82 months in a row. In the summer and fall, he seeks out snow in Billy’s Bowl in Breckenridge, atop Loveland Pass and on St. Mary’s Glacier. He averages 172 ski days a year.
Though he “hates” hiking up mountains for 45-60 minutes to reach snow, he gets a natural high making turns on the way down. However, he’s cautious not to fall in the tricky snow, especially because one particular mountain lion has been watching him hike up Billy’s Bowl this summer.
“I know he’s just waiting for a meal if I get hurt, so I try to be pretty careful,” he said.
Thomas Creighton, a ski patroller at Copper Mountain, has been joining Timmons on his summer ski adventures for the last four or five years. He enjoys hearing Timmons’s stories about what life used to be like, how skiing has changed and more. And, despite summer conditions, which include wavy, rocky, dirty, slushy and lumpy “snow,” Timmons is always the instigator, Creighton said.
“He’s always in for skiing, no matter what the conditions are,” Creighton said. “As long as it’s white, he’s skiing.”
The rest of the story
All Timmons was looking for in 1967 was a job. He started working for one of the first major snowmakers in the nation and fell in love with it. But, he believed skiing was for rich people, not him, so he sat out his entire first season. During the second season, co-workers talked him into trying the sport, and on his first day, he knew there was something to it. By the fourth day, he was hooked.
Since then, he has made snow at seven different resorts, in four different states, including the Frisco Nordic Center. Aside from snowmaking, he has mostly made a living as a landscaper and construction worker.
A few years ago, he started selling portable snowmaking systems through CHS Snowmakers. He had met the owner of the company, Jason Sawin, at Arapahoe Basin, and it turned out Sawin became fascinated with snowmaking at Big Bear – the same year Timmons was making snow at the California ski area.
Selling snowmaking systems took Timmons all over the country and allowed him to ski most of the places he had dreamed of exploring.
These days, he works for Napa Auto Parts and does some landscaping. He also spends a lot of time at Arapahoe Basin, working in the mountain host volunteer program. He shows up first thing in the morning, pulling at least twice as many shifts as he’s required to, and he even swings by in the off-season to help with highway clean-up or to check out the snow guns.
“He’s just an all-around amazing man,” said Courtney DeVito, Arapahoe Basin’s human resources manager, “and his passion for skiing is just unsurpassed.”