Life Takes a Turn

Max Mancini holds ski camp for kids


Max Mancini is only 27 years old, but already he has lived two lifetimes. The critical juncture occurred on September 30, 2007. One minute, Max and his pregnant girlfriend, Molly, were driving down the highway. The next minute, Max was regaining consciousness in an intensive care unit, where he was being treated for massive brain trauma. His girlfriend and their unborn child had been killed in the accident.


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Two years later, with a titanium plate in his head, most of his functioning restored, and the agonizing losses still weighing on his heart, Max decided to make something positive out of his experience. From March 8 through March 15, his nonprofit group, Life Turns, will sponsor a winter activities camp in Crested Butte for special needs children and children living with illness.
“When I was recovering from the accident and the brain surgery,” Max explains, “I could only walk, slowly. I walked slowly around the ICU at Denver Hospital; I walked slowly around Cherry Creek.”
An avid skier since childhood, the first thing Max did when he returned home from the hospital to Crested Butte was strap on his skis. “It was only two and a half months after the surgery,” he says. “I wasn’t supposed to be skiing at all. But it was great therapy. The feeling of being able to move quickly again, and go where I wanted to go—it was an amazing feeling. It gave me so much, and I wanted to find a way to share that feeling with those who need it.”
Max, in conjunction with Molly’s parents, established Life Turns, formed a board of directors and raised the money for this year’s camp, which will pay all expenses for the campers. “Everything is free,” Max confirms. “And many of the services were donated. CBMR has been great about helping us out with lift tickets. We rented a house on the mountain and will be cooking meals with the kids every night.”
The winter activities will include snowshoeing, igloo-building, dog-sledding, and four days of skiing and snowboarding.
Volunteers from the Adaptive Sports Center will help out, along with Molly’s parents, Max’s sister, who is a nurse from Seattle, and Molly’s best friend, also a nurse.
Because the time span from the idea for the program to the actual program itself was so short, only about seven kids out of the hoped-for 15 have signed up. In other words, there is still time for several more children to be informed about the program and to participate. Children need to be cleared by their doctor to travel to a high elevation. Otherwise, Max says, he doesn’t ask what the child’s special need or illness is.
Max is not only a courageous and modest individual, he is also a brilliant telemark skier who has been starring in ski films since he was 17. A sponsored skier, he has appeared in four films by Warren Miller and worked with Two Plank Productions here in Crested Butte. He intends to start making films with his own production company, Falling Forward Films.
Max and his Life Turns board of directors hope to expand fundraising in order to make the camp an annual event. “We’d like to raise enough money to have more camps next winter, and be able to expand into summer, too.” He adds, “We’re also going to start working with foster children.”
This year, Rossignol asked Max to create a graphic design for a new ski that will be available next September. Max and a friend spent months creating a design that he regards as a metaphor for his experience. The design features a storm system moving down the length of the ski, starting as a close-up and moving to outer space in perspective. “There’s darkness, and there’s light,” Max describes. “There’s being in the thick of the storm, and there’s the coming out on the other side.”
Max still suffers from occasional migraine headaches and some short-term memory loss. When describing the accident that tore his life apart, he is plainspoken and utterly without self-pity. Life Turns is his gift back to life, and he is devoted to his mission of making the outdoor experience available to special needs kids.
“I got a call from a little girl in Denver last night,” he says, his voice rising with enthusiasm. “She was just calling to say how excited she was to be coming to the camp, and to make sure we were holding a place for her.”
Life Turns takes place March 8-15. The website,, is still under construction, but for further information you can contact Max Mancini directly at (970) 309-4732.
There will be a benefit film screening for Life Turns on Friday, March 13 at the Lodge at Mountaineer Square. Warren Miller Entertainment will showcase a highlight reel of Mancini’s four segments as well as the most recent feature film, Children of Winter, with the marquee segment filmed in Crested Butte. The show starts at 7 p.m. and admission is $15, with all proceeds donated by Warren Miller Entertainment to the Life Turns Foundation. Tickets will be sold at the door only. Doors open at 6 p.m.

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