Sam Ferguson has had several things in his life he's had to reconcile, including a freak mountain bike accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. But perhaps the most unusual reconciliation has been between his passion -- freeskiing -- and his vocation -- accounting.
Yes, you just saw the words "freeskiing" and "accounting" in the same sentence, in reference to the same person.
"I have a lot of colleagues and clients who say, 'Really? You do this on the weekdays and ski on the weekends?' And my skiing friends say, 'Really? You're an accountant?'" Ferguson says.
Ferguson, an avid backcountry skier, is known for a Winter X silver medal, appearances in three Warren Miller movies, 30-foot cliff drops on a monoski and heliskiing expeditions in Chile, where he earned the nickname "Loco Sammy." He was the first adaptive athlete on a Winter X course, riding his sit-ski in the SuperPipe years ago. He's competed in three Mono Skier X events, earning silver in 2009, and he's an alternate for the 2010 U.S. Paralympic downhill team.
While not native to Colorado, Ferguson has lived in Aspen since 1995. "I finally got my 10-year local card punched," he jokes. He really feels he has the support of the Aspen community when he races at WX, saying, "Win or lose, it's great to have that."
"I see this community come together not just to support me, but to support the games in Aspen."
Sam earns his keep crunching numbers, something the 39-year-old has been doing for 20 years. After working several corporate jobs, he started his own accounting firm after last year's Winter X. He specializes in property management and hospitality clientele. On the side he's an adaptive ski instructor, developing a line of powder monoskis and trying to establish a circuit for monoski freeskiers.
He acknowledges that he's a bit of a perfectionist. "I like to carry accounting over to my skiing. It takes a lot of practice, preparation and knowledge," he says. "I'm not satisfied until I get it right. I'm hard on myself, and that's what drives me." He's likely the only freeskier with a written mission statement.
There's not much from freeskiing that goes back into his accounting practice, though. "Actually, I'm very conservative, which is another enigma about myself," Ferguson says.
In the past, he's accommodated his training schedule by starting his workday at 4 a.m. He saved all his vacation time for ski season. However, when his previous employer balked at the timing of certain competitions, he quit. That was one week before Winter X 2009. "Skiing is a part of my life and I want to see it through," he says.
His path to accounting wasn't direct, much like his introduction to skiing. Ferguson was on his way toward a college degree in hospitality management, training to be a chef with dreams of working in Oregon. His accident, in June 1995, derailed the plan.
He was in the midst of an internship at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen, and when he was able to return to work, they took him back as a salesperson. He then joined their accounting team and worked through the ranks.
Ferguson has always led an active life, whether surfing, climbing or participating in other sports. He skied recreationally before his accident, and he remembers the exact date he returned to the snow: Feb. 12, 1996.
"As soon as my ski hit the snow and I made the first turn, I knew that this was something I could become passionate about again," he says. It helped him move on in life and rebuild confidence, he says. "If I could do this, I could do other things. If I can be creative about it, and adapt myself, anything is possible."