After a life filled with triumphs and tribulations, Parkite Colby Stevenson wins two gold medals at X Games Aspen last weekend
Hearing the life story of Colby Stevenson, one would have to wonder if his life has been blessed or cursed. The 22-year-old Parkite has even questioned that himself, and depending where he was at in life, his answer has varied.
“You know, it’s hard to think of that because right now, I’m at an all-time high after what happened last weekend,” Stevenson said. “But if you asked me a few years ago, I would have a totally different answer. … It was the darkest time in my life and I didn’t know if I would ever come out of it. I was heading off of the deep end for a bit there when I got wrecked.”
Just last weekend, the blessed part of Stevenson’s life was in full effect.
As a rookie on the X Games tour, Stevenson took home gold medals in the inaugural ski knuckle huck and slopestyle events — going from unknown rookie to a superstar overnight.
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“It doesn’t feel like I’ve reached that superstar level for me, but I can see it from other people,” Stevenson said. “Everyone I talk too, they’re saying ‘congratulations’ and giving me mad respect. Even people I don’t talk to or don’t even know who they are, are sending me messages. … So I feel it in that way of respect.”
To him, the gold medals were just as much for his family as for he and a symbol of his perserverance.
Stevenson never would’ve had the chance to stand on the podium in Aspen on Sunday night if it wasn’t for his family, and his friend John Michael Fabrizi. Three and half years prior to that night in Colorado, where Stevenson felt immortal, he felt anything but — and the cursed part of his life began to take shape.
Stevenson and Fabrizi, who was in the passenger seat with a broken leg, were driving from Mt. Hood to Park City on Interstate 86 near Chubbuck, Idaho, about 200 miles away from home.
After nearly 12 hours of nonstop driving, Stevenson began to get tired. All it took was three seconds for everything to change.
“I was exhausted and I feel asleep at the wheel for maybe two-three seconds, but that was all it took,” Stevenson said. “The truck rolled six times or so and the roof completely caved in. I don’t remember much of anything from that night.”
After a three-day coma, Stevenson awoke to his parents, but with a fractured neck, four broken ribs and damage to his eye socket and forehead. But the real battle was still emerging.
Unable to do much for himself, Stevenson relied on his parents and grandma to help him through. He went into a downward spiral of depression, thinking that his skiing career — all he’s ever wanted out of life — was over.
“It was dark, like, I can’t even begin to explain how dark it was for me,” Stevenson said. “I put everything I ever has into skiing and making it and I felt like it was all taken away from me. I thought I’d never flip again because my balance was off. … I couldn’t lay down without spinning, so how could I ever fly through the air again?”
Slowly but surely, Stevenson came to accept what happened to him, realizing how valuable life is and vowing to appreciate each day. Because if you ask him, he’s not even sure he was supposed to still be alive.
As he began to become stronger, he ventured with the U.S. Ski Freestyle team to New Zealand for a competition five months after the accident, excited to be back with the boys. Although he didn’t compete, he decided to give skiing a try again, and on that first day back, he landed a double cork 1080, signifying to himself that he would be back.
But before he could officially begin a comeback, Stevenson knew that while physically he was different, he had to change himself mentally.
“After I landed that trick, I knew I was going to comeback. … Like I just knew that there was nothing that was going to hold me back from what I love,” he said. “I had to start doing it out of love instead of putting all the pressure on myself to win, make money and the other stuff. I’m alive, I’m talking and I’m skiing. … What more did I need?”
Eight months after the accident, Stevenson was back on the podium. He was a world cup champion, taking the gold medal in the slopestyle event in Seiser Alm, Italy.
That wasn’t the end of his troubles though.
Two years later, after showing a lot of promise on the World Cup tour, Stevenson tore his rotator cuff and had surgery, forcing him to miss the Olympics and an invite to the X Games tour last season.
But with his new mindset, Stevenson was sad but not demoralized. Once healthy, he began to take solace in his other hobbies including mountain biking, golf, surfing and his other loves in life, backcountry and snowmobiling.
“I think having these other hobbies that I’m super passionate about, I think that’s ultimately what saves me in the end from putting some much pressure on myself,” Stevenson said. “I want to ski for the rest of my life because it’s fun. But I think the key to my success is having all of these other passions for other things so my life isn’t wrapped around skiing competitively.”
Everything Stevenson has been through led him to that moment Sunday night in Aspen. After the lights had gone out, the fireworks stopped and the cheers silenced he finally found a little quiet to himself.
He was riding the gondola up to the top of the mountain where Monster Energy, his sponsor, was waiting to throw a huge party in his honor. Before the hoopla would commence, Stevenson thought about that night three and half years ago and his journey.
He went from a night he would never remember, unsure if he would ever ski competitively again to a night he would always remember, not caring if he ever skied competitively again.
“I knew I needed a different approach in life after the accident,” Stevenson said. “I restarted my life with a new attitude and a different direction. I was about being smarter and just loving every aspect of my life. … And now I truly have fun and just enjoy the moment.”
When asked if his life is cursed or blessed, Stevenson no longer cares about the answer. He’s happy to be alive and enjoy doing what he loves, and that’s all he’ll ever need.
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.