DUBUQUE — Ski instructor Beth Bonz asked Kaily Ramage about their plan for the afternoon.
Did 9-year-old Kaily want to start with a brief run on the “bunny” hill to review her past lessons, or skip ahead and ski the full hill and take the lift back?
Kaily’s eyes lit up and a grin spread across her face.
“All the way down,” she said.
That was the cue, and the pair sped down the big hill at Sundown Mountain Resort. The only brief delay came when Kaily first arrived for the day’s skiing, when Bonz had to help pop the girl’s boot-wearing, prosthetic left leg into a ski.
Kaily spent Sunday afternoon participating in an adaptive skiing event held at Sundown and organized by Clark & Associates Prosthetics and Orthotics in Waterloo.
“It’s fun,” Kaily said. “I get to go fast and it feels really easy.”
Chad Remmert, Clark’s director of business development and an organizer of the event, said about 30 patients and staff members participated.
“We’ve got seven amputees here and a couple of folks who use braces,” Remmert said.
Kaily has had a prosthetic left leg since she was a baby. The Dubuque girl was born with a club foot and missing part of her fibula. Her leg was amputated when she was 5 months old.
Kaily’s dad, Zach Ramage, said the prosthetic doesn’t slow her down much.
“She can do 95 percent of things without much difficulty,” he said. “The only problems are riding a bike — it’s sometimes hard to keep her foot on the pedal — and gymnastics — she can do a cartwheel one direction easily but the other way is a little problematic.”
Kaily said skiing is one of her favorite sports. She has been using adaptive equipment to ski for a few years.
“She does very well,” Bonz said. “Every year, she’s gotten progressively better.”
Andy Steele is a co-owner of Clark and a certified prosthetist and orthotist who serves patients at offices in Dubuque and Waterloo. He also has a prosthetic, having lost a leg in a farm accident when he was 12 years old.
“Our motto is to focus on everybody’s ability,” Steele said, as he waited his turn to ski and watched others with prosthetics heading down the slope. “It’s incredible to see people getting back to doing something that they love or get back to trying new things. I think sometimes, when people have an amputation or a disability, they think they will be limited with the things they can do. But really, I think the only limit is when you are limiting yourself.”
Adam Weber, a Dubuque native living in Waterloo, lost the lower part of his left leg in 2015 after a motorcycle crash. He began snowboarding with a few adaptive modifications in 2017.
“They have a piece of foam in my boot, and a different bracket allows my prosthetic to be bent,” Weber said.
Weber participated in Sunday’s adaptive skiing event, but said he really wanted to keep an eye on the inspirational young skiers, such as Kaily.
“Amputees that start as kids are part of the future of winter sports,” Weber said. “They show that the sky’s the limit.”
Kaily kept grinning during time on the slope.
“The best thing about it is that she doesn’t have to put in extra effort that some of the other sports require,” said her dad Zach. “She’s having a blast.”