‘New chapter’

Edward StonerVail correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

Two years ago, under a blue sky on Vail Mountain, Chris Fesmire took his first ski lesson as a double amputee.It was just months after a land mine exploded under his Humvee in Iraq, mangling his legs.On Friday, another bluebird day, Fesmire was back on Vail Mountain, ripping up black diamonds, stopping to wait for his ski companions – people with legs – to catch up with him.Fesmire was skiing for the third year in the Vail Veterans Program, which this year has brought 26 Iraq war veterans, all amputees, to Vail for three days of skiing.The program helps the vets – many of whom are uncertain about life after their injuries – understand they can accomplish a lot, Fesmire said.”It really is the best kind of therapy,” he said. “It teaches you how to live. It helps you adapt to your new life, whatever it may be.”In the last two years, Fesmire, 28, has retired from the Marines, and he and his wife, Willow, have moved to Colorado. They came here because of the mountain lifestyle and the sense of community, he said. They live in Nederland and are building a home in Park County.Fesmire now owns his own monoski. He has about 30 days this year so far, skiing a lot at nearby Eldora Mountain.Skiing gives him freedom, he said.”Can I quote Waylon Jennings?” he said. “‘Doers and thinkers say moving is the closest thing to being free.’ … Flying down the mountain, whizzing past everyone.”He plans to get certified as an adaptive instructor next season and work at Breckenridge teaching others to use adaptive skiing equipment.