Kootenai Prosthetics & Orthotics

Amputees In Action

Ken Larson

Just watch Ken Larson streak down a ski hill. Snow sprays in a glittering rooster tail as he effortlessly negotiates a black diamond run. He looks like he’s been doing this for decades – and he has. He looks like a 40-year old – but he’s 61. And he certainly does not look like an amputee – but he is.


A top-of-the line combination of customized prosthetic components power Ken down the mountain, keeping pace with able bodied skiers. KPO designed and fabricated a specialized knee brace and laminated that into a prosthesis designed for skiing. An adjustable ankle adaptor allows Ken to tweak the pitch of his prosthetic foot over the ski, giving him excellent control of his turns and downhill runs.


When Ken was 18 years old, a life-threatening logging accident in the Idaho backcountry severed his right leg. Before the accident, Ken had his heart set on playing football for the Navy, and like most young athletes, he hoped to eventually go pro. Losing a leg squashed that dream but Ken says he never felt sorry for himself.


“People sometimes say ‘why me’ when something like this happens, but I honestly couldn’t go there. It wasn’t always easy, but I knew I had to stay positive and not let negativity get to me.”


A new goal helped. Like a lot of young guys in mountain country, Ken wanted to learn to ski. With good-natured ribbing, his sister told him he was crazy. That was all Ken needed.


“I was in good physical shape from lots of high school football. I knew how to condition and train and push myself. So I started going to Bogus Basin and taught myself. I wore my regular walking leg—the only one I had--and was in constant pain. But I was determined.”


Ken skied recreationally as often as possible for the next decade then when he saw a television ad for physically impaired ski competition at Park City, he found his next challenge. By the time Ken had worked his way up the ladder of local and regional competitions, the U.S. Disabled Ski Team asked him to join their developmental team; then they offered him a chance to be on the national ski team. Ken traveled the country for ten years competing with the ski team, working construction and carpentry during the off season.


When he retired from the ski circuit, Ken followed his second passion: making violins and he opened a violin sales and repair shop in Coeur d’Alene. In 2000, he moved to the Seattle area to work for a music company while he continued to run his own shop and craft violins.   


College is Ken’s current focus and when he’s not attending classes at Edmonds Community College, he skis, backpacks, fishes, kayaks, hunts, mountain bikes and practices archery, often with his wife Mary and 16-year-old son Erik. His next goal: summiting Mt Rainier with his prosthetist Bob Miller.


Ken has worked as an amputee peer counselor for years. “People are naturally depressed when this happens to them, and I understand that. It almost did me in. I tell people that they have to talk about it, they have right frame of mind. If they think they can’t live a normal life, they can’t. If they think they might, well, they might. But if they think they will, they absolutely will live full, productive lives.”

Other Amputees In Action

Don Bennett


Jack Lamb

Denzel Tucker

Dian Hanson

Gary Wilson