Learning to walk on skis | VailDaily.com

Learning to walk on skis

Ryan Slabaugh

When he was born, Kullas, a racer for Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, had doctors swearing he wouldn’t walk or sit up. He had no abdominal muscles and was born deaf.

His parents, Candy and Spike, were both ski instructors on Vail Mountain and had the idea to put Kullas – when he was 18 months old –on skis.

“About two weeks later,” his mom said, “he was taking his first steps.”

After learning to walk by strengthening the muscles in his back, it didn’t take Kullas long to start racing. He won the four-and-under division at the NASTAR National Championships and has been cutting through the gates ever since.

His coach, Ray Jay Benoit, beams as he describes the impact Cameron’s made to the Club.

“At the beginning of the year, a lot of people didn’t know what to make of him,” Benoit said. “He’s different. But he’s taught a lot of these kids a lesson. He has the biggest heart of anybody I’ve ever seen.”

Cameron has enjoyed success this year, taking third at the Aspen Camp School for the Deaf’s 12-19 division, held on Snowmass. Last year, when he was 12, Cameron won the event. He doesn’t speak well, but his mom, fluent in sign language, helps him communicate with coaches and other kids.

“I want to ski race in the Olympics,” Cameron signed. “I want to got to the national disabled team and, then, to the deaf Olympics.”

During the week, Cameron, a skinny kid who looks like any other 13-year-old, attends the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind in Colorado Springs. The seventh grader makes the trips up to Vail to ski race on the weekends and, then, returns to his dorm room. While doctors have forbidden him from playing “contact sports,” he helps out with the football team and, in his free time, rides motor bikes with his brother, Nick.

“They fight like any other brothers do,” Candy said.

And, while ski racing might not fit into the “contact” category, jumping off 30-foot cliffs into powder beds comes pretty close. When asked if he liked to go fast, he acted like he had never heard a worse question. He does all of this this, but swears with a straight face, that he’s never been scared on skis.

Maybe, that’s because he was practically born on them.

Cameron plays golf too, but ski racing is his real passion. He finished second this year in the Youth Ski League, made up of all the youth clubs from Loveland to Ski Cooper to Beaver Creek. Ski and Snowboard Club Vail just gave him the C-cubed award, for his courage, commitment and character. While it’s hard for him to speak, two words came out loud and clear when he was asked about his favorite athlete.

“Bode Miller,” he said, loud and clear.

Ryan Slabaugh can be contacted at (970) 949-0555 ext. 608 or at rslabaugh@vaildaily.com.

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