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For The Biggest Event Of The Year, Patrick Halgren Made Sure He Looked His Best

By Stephen Kerr | March 06, 2023, 12:12 p.m. (ET)

Patrick Halgren takes a selfie at the 2023 FIS Para Alpine Skiing World Championships. (Photo: Marcus Hartmann)

Patrick Halgren met Jeff Ward when the two were in third grade in Connecticut, and they quickly became fast friends. Before long, Ward was Halgren’s barber, too.


Ward began cutting hair when he was about 10 years old, after his father became tired of paying for haircuts. He did so well that it wasn’t long before other parents began paying him to cut their kids’ hair.


“I was making about 10 bucks a haircut,” recalled Ward. “There were four boys in our family, and we had Patrick and his brothers who lived right down the road. I was like, ‘This is a great little business I’ve got going.’”


Halgren remembers Ward giving him haircuts as early as eighth grade. More than 15 years later, Halgren, now 30, is a U.S. Paralympian in alpine skiing and living in the Rocky Mountains, while Ward resides in New York. But when Halgren needed to look his best at January’s FIS Para Alpine World Ski Championships in Espot, Spain, he knew just who to call.


Ward eagerly accepted the invitation, even bringing his barber tools and giving Halgren a haircut while they were there.


Halgren’s favorite hairdo is a Clark Kent-style cut. But for this occasion, he had been growing his hair out and dying it blond in memory of his late brother, Lucas. The first night in Espot, Ward took a picture and recreated a photo Halgren’s mother Kathy had from 10 years ago.


“I’ve been getting it braided, so he cleaned it up on the sides and trimmed it everywhere,” Halgren said. “It was really cool.”


Halgren placed 19th in the downhill and 13th in the slalom in Espot. While looking his best may not have resulted in winning a medal, he believes it puts him in a position to be successful.


“It’s a scientific fact,” he said. “Even from the standpoint of aerodynamics, if I don’t have a scrubby mop, I’m going to cut through the air faster.”


When he wasn’t competing, Halgren and Ward took in the Spanish culture with some free skiing, walking around a tiny village and sampling great food.


“It was wild,” Ward said of the trip. “I’d never traveled internationally before so it was a pretty crazy experience. I got to watch him ski and ski with him a couple of runs.”


Ward plans to make more trips with Halgren in the coming months. It’s an exciting prospect getting to be on the road with a good friend who also happens to be a Paralympic athlete.


“It’s kind of like walking around with a celebrity,” Ward said.


The experience was the latest chapter for the longtime friends.


Halgren and Ward’s friendship has blossomed over the years despite living on opposite sides of the country.


As a barber, Ward made his name as a teenager giving “crazy mohawks” and other similar haircuts to Halgren and other friends, the skier recalled. “But then he actually became a skilled barber when I was in college,” Halgren said.


Though Ward became a licensed barber at age 20, he now works full-time as a senior logistics manager for a transportation company and cuts hair as a side hustle. While being a barber was enjoyable, he said, he struggled to make ends meet and decided to change careers.


Halgren, meanwhile, studied for a year at Dean College in Massachusetts, then spent time in New Zealand before moving to Colorado about six years ago. One day in 2013, he was running late for work, failed to make a turn and crashed his motorcycle. The accident put him in a coma for a month and resulted in his left leg being amputated above the knee.


“It was the first time I’d ridden (the motorcycle) that summer,” Halgren explained. “I think I bit off more than I could chew, speeding out in the middle of the country back road. I ended up not making a turn going off the road and hit a telephone pole.”


At first, Halgren resisted the idea of trying a sport after losing a leg. Once he decided to give alpine skiing a try, he loved the sense of belonging it provided.


“I figured even if I’m not the best skier in the world, the whole community that comes along with skiing, I figured I’d at least have fun,” Halgren said.


The sport has since brought him around the world, including to the Beijing Games last year, where he finished 24th in slalom and 26th in giant slalom.


Halgren is enjoying the chance to live his destiny, letting his life unfold one day at a time. He’s working toward an appearance at the Paralympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026. Until then, his most immediate goal is making a world cup podium. If he does, his good friend — and personal barber — will be cheering him on.

Stephen Kerr

Stephen Kerr is a freelance journalist and newsletter publisher based in Austin, Texas. He is a contributor to USParaAlpineSkiing.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. You can follow him on Twitter @smkwriter1.