Five years ago, he lost his older brother after a snowmobile crash at the Winter X Games.
A year ago, he broke his back while attempting a double backflip in Aspen and spent months relearning to walk.
This sport has taken a toll on Colten Moore and his family. Still, he can’t let it go.
Moore would love nothing more than to hop back on a snowmobile and race this week at Winter X – on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the death of his brother, Caleb, who was also his mentor, best friend and push-the-boundaries partner. Colten has regained nearly all of his feeling since his accident, but heeded his doctor’s advice and won’t compete. Instead, he will judge the Freestyle, Speed & Style and Snow Bike Best Trick competitions.
“I’ve thought about what we’ve gone through, what my parents have gone through,” the 28-year-old said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But I just don’t know if I’ll ever give it up completely. It’s just a passion. You take someone’s passion away, it’s difficult for them.
“If you can keep from losing that passion, why not keep it around as long as you can?”
Nearly a year ago, Moore was trying to land the difficult double backflip at Winter X. He figured he’d ironed out all the wrinkles while landing into a foam pit during practice. In the competition, though, he attacked the trick too fast and, in mid-rotation, experienced the feeling that the snowmobile was trying to throw him off. He drifted farther and farther from the optimal landing area, and the jarring impact threw him from his sled.
“It was like falling from 50 feet to flat,” explained Colten, who’s from Krum, Texas. “I hit so hard that something had to give. Right when it happened, I remember my dad being over me and I told him, ‘I just paralyzed myself.’”
Moore couldn’t immediately feel anything from the waist down in the ambulance ride to the hospital.
“I was asking if anything was moving,” he said of his conversation with the medical personnel. “They said my toe moved a little bit. That was the biggest sign of hope for me. For something to move, I was like, ‘OK, there’s a chance.’”
He was flown to Denver, where he underwent surgery to fuse together a few of his vertebrae, one of which was shoved into his spine and came within millimeters from severing the cord.
“I got really lucky,” he said.
This ordeal couldn’t help but rekindle painful memories for the Moore family.
On Jan. 24, 2013, Caleb crashed while performing a trick known as the Tsunami Indy Flip – a maneuver he’s “nailed 100 times before,” Colten said.
Caleb died a week later. He was 25.
For Colten, it’s always difficult being back at Winter X (he captured a gold medal in his brother’s honor a year after his death). But it’s no more difficult than any other day.
“I think about him all the time,” said Colten, who wrote a book with Keith O’Brien titled “Catching the Sky “ as a tribute. “It’s just tough to be without him all the way around.”
Since his crash, Colten’s goals have been straight-forward. First, there was walking out of the hospital under his own power.
No easy feat.
“If you could’ve seen me at first, it was impressive for breaking my back walking, but it was pretty ugly walking,” said Colten, who was helped out with medical expenses by his sponsors and through Road 2 Recovery, which will launch a sweepstakes for a chance to win a Polaris RZR Turbo – with the proceeds going to Moore’s recovery. “At that time, my calves didn’t work at all, so all my weight was on my heels.”
In mid-February, he accomplished the goal of leaving the hospital without assistance. His family and girlfriend were there for support.
Over the last few months, he’s steadily improved as he goes through physical therapy at InMotion Rehab in Plano, Texas. About the only issue are his calves, which he said are still “a little weak.”
“Just trying to get my back stronger, get my legs stronger,” said Colten, who sold the sled he crashed to a friend that wants to take up riding (he has plenty more). “I mean, I get down on myself. I’m just an overachiever, thinking I should be back to it by now. With extent of the injury, I’m doing pretty good.
“For most of us guys, when we get hurt, when we break an arm or a leg, and the doctor says to wait six weeks, we’ll actually wait four and cut the cast off and go back at it. This one is a little more serious, so I should probably listen to the doctor.”
He’s been cleared to step behind the wheel for off-road racing in May, complete with a cage around the all-terrain vehicle, because “with age, comes a cage,” he joked. Colten also is looking forward to serving as a judge for the snowmobile competitions at Winter X.
No pressure, either.
“Since I’m not going there to ride, it’s going to be weird not to be stressed out,” Colten said. “But I’ll plan on being back next year, for sure. It’s what I love to do and I want to get back at it.”