Monica Quimby Says She Felt Like She Was Flying

Editor’s Note: In Part 1 of a four-part series, Hometown Hero Monica Quimby of Scarborough, Maine, tells us she had the world by the tail on a downhill pull as an active college student and a ski instructor in Auburn, Me. Quimby had a very active life and a large group of friends before her world changed. This week Quimby teaches us that despite disaster in our lives, we all can fly.  

Monica Quimby shares her story of hope and success.

Question: Monica, what did you study in college?

Quimby: I studied molecular biology, and I was really interested in strawberry research. When I was 13- and 14-years old, I worked on a strawberry farm here in Maine.

Question: How did you become a ski instructor?

Quimby: I had snow-skied all my life. I also skied on the ski and board team at the University of New Hampshire, in addition to being a ski instructor. Skiing gave me the feeling of being free. I liked it, because it was an independent sport that I could do on my own whenever I wanted to ski. I also liked the adrenaline rush I got when I skied down a steep slope over bumps and hills and became airborne. At that moment, I was flying, which was one of the greatest sensations in the world. Skiing, my favorite thing in the world to do, was so exhilarating.

At the time, I had already completed 30-back flips on my skis and enjoyed flying forward, straight ahead and upside down and pushing the envelope. I loved the thrill of challenging myself just to see what I could do. The people I hung out with had that same zest for life as I did. A group of us would get together and just go skiing for fun on the weekends and sometimes during the week.

My favorite trail to ski was a double-diamond trail, the steepest and the most-technical slope at the ski resort. I loved that feeling I got when I came down that slope of, “Oh, my gosh, I’m going so fast I am almost out of control.” I really liked skiing on the edge of my ability as well as skiing on that edge of being in and out of control. I’m not a person who has ever done drugs or alcohol. Skiing was my personal stress release and my vehicle to get high on life. Skiing was in fact my “mountain high,” and I never dreamed it could be taken away from me.

Question: Monica, tell us about the most memorable day of your life.

On the most memorable day of her life, Monica felt like she was flying.

On the most memorable day of her life, Monica felt like she was flying.

Quimby: On January 28, 2006, the day started off really strange with temperatures in the warm 50s, which was unusual weather for Maine in January. Although the conditions on the ski slopes were slushy to icy, my friends and I had planned a ski trip. The conditions of the slope didn’t really matter. I’d been skiing all day with a bunch of friends and had had a really-good time. This day was just one of those great days to be alive. We were skiing a mountain.

The last run of the day was at 4:30 pm, and then the ski lift would be shut-off. We were all pretty tired, but we made the decision to go-down the double diamond trail (the steepest and most-technical trail on the mountain). I was the last person in my group to start down the hill. But I went over a jump so fast that I missed my landing pad at a flat plateau on the mountain and overshot the landing by more 20 feet.

I hit the down-sloping side of the mountain. I knew I’d done something wrong when I hit the ground, because I was in intense pain. At first, I thought I’d broken my legs. Although the pain was severe, I still could move my legs. When the rescue-team members arrived, they packed me in snow to try to prevent any swelling of any injury I might have.

Monica sprung back into life after her injury, attending Spring Fling at her university.

Monica sprung back into life after her injury, attending Spring Fling at her university.

I don’t remember who showed up to help me, but about 15-20 minutes after my accident, I was loaded into the back of a sled and pulled down the mountain. We had to stop a few times because the pain was excruciating. However, I was conscious the whole time. When I reached the bottom of the mountain, I was placed in a helicopter and flown to the Maine Medical Center in Portland, Me., where I stayed for 10 days. However, I don’t remember much about my hospital stay. 

Question: When did you find out that your back was broken, and that you would be in a wheelchair?

Quimby: I think it was the third week after the accident that I realized I was paralyzed from the waist down. The first thing I can remember is I pulled the sheets back to look down at my legs, which always had been very muscular because of the skiing and other activities in which I had participated. I thought, “Oh, my gosh! My legs are just skin and bones.”

Seeing those bony, skinny legs was the toughest part of the realization that I was paralyzed. I had that initial feeling of, “What’s going to happen to me?” My biggest concern after seeing my legs was, “Who’s going to love somebody in a wheelchair? How am I ever going to find love again?”

Question: What happened next?

Quimby: I flew to Georgia, to the Shepherd Rehabilitation Center, because I learned that Shepherd was one of the best rehabilitation centers in the nation.

Next: Monica Quimby Wondered Who Would Love Her Now 

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at

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