Alaska is just one of those places that has been in the ski movies for all these years because it's that good.
I mean, there's a lot of places to ski.
I mean, even out at Hatcher Pass that have been in Warren Miller ski movies and things like that.
I did a little bit of everything, but skiing is what I do the most and what I've always loved to do the most since I've been an adult basically.
I grew up here in Palmer, Alaska.
I started skiing probably as a little kid, doing like cross-country skis in the woods a couple of times a year with my family.
Then Hatcher Pass and the mountains up there is where everyone skipped school to go snowboarding.
And then I skied through college with UAF, got into Got into backcountry alpine skiing, probably starting in college.
In ‘99, I got recruited by Rossignol Skis, so I've been working for them ever since.
So I've gotten to travel around the country and around the world a bit playing on snow professionally.
So that's been pretty cool.
It was in November 2010 and we were clearing trees for the Thanksgiving weekend coming up after a huge windstorm so there were leaning trees and downed trees all across the trails.
It cracked I ran.
So I sort of knew it was going somewhere.
I didn't know it was going to come at me.
But yeah, it pounded me into the ground over the shoulders like a nail.
I was pretty much flattened, straight into the snow, face down.
No, I never got knocked out, which was good.
I had a crew with me, but they had basic first aid training, so I got to walk my crew how to cut the tree off me Mostly I was swearing at them to cut the tree off me.
I lost feeling from about mid chest down.
I was a trained medic so I already knew I was paralyzed, didn't know how badly.
So I had them pull my radio and my cell phone out of my chest harness Yeah I called in for help.
After getting out of the woods by the local EMS group and helicoptered to a hospital in Anchorage.
I spent a month in intensive care and then almost four months in Denver, in a rehab hospital.
So it was a pretty life changing experience.
So, I mean, I broke my back in four places, I broke spines, I broke ribs off, I cut some internal organs.
I had a lot of injuries.
I mean, I really only found out a couple of years ago all the extent of the injuries when I got my full medical records.
The first year was pretty challenging.
But, you know, I've been slowly getting back to everything I used to do.
It was probably almost a year before I was back at work full time and I was going to a lot of physical therapy for most of a year.
I'm still relearning to do the things I used to do, so it's it's an ongoing process or I'm still learning how to get out of bed better or to wipe my (expletive) better I mean, who knows?
There's all the things I'm learning to redo (and there's old maps in the back.)
It probably took me two years to figure out how I was going to garden again, just because I can't easily reach the ground.
So, you know, grabbing grabber bars.
I have like squeeze grabbers everywhere, little t-rex things.
I mean, when I first woke up at the hospital, nobody ever really told me life can be fun.
Just that I was paralyzed and probably forever.
That probably would have helped my mental outlook on things.
I used to volunteer at Challenge Alaska, so I knew they had adaptive skiing so that was in my mind that I could go ski again.
But apart from that, I didn't know much about paralysis or being in a wheelchair.
I had some friends who had relatives in wheelchairs, but that's the extent of it I never talked to people about what's it like to be paralyzed?
(Never an easy process here) Yeah, I definitely see how disabilities or people with disabilities are treated differently.
When I worked in an office building most of the time before COVID, I pretty much, at least on a weekly basis, got talked to like I was someone with a mental deficiency just because that's what people's perceptions of disability are... Everyone disabled has a mental issue as well as a physical issue.
So on alpine, I'm on a single ski with a motorcycle shock as a suspension, and a coil over a spring.
Sits pretty good and it lets me ski.
And I do like a basically a dip on some crutches.
My ski pole handles become crutches and I do a dip and get myself onto the chairlift that way.
Yes, I'm on one ski and I can rock my hips and that's how I shift my weight.
And a lot of that is rocking my hips forward, using my core muscles.
But I can rock them side to side just a little bit so I don't have full control to give good edge control.
But like, it's like side slipping.
You side slip down the hill and that's how you start turning and all of that.
It's been pretty nice that I've been able to ski a lot, both Alpine and Nordic.
So that's been pretty good for me.
Physical movement helps everything out.
Helps your mental mindset, helps your health issues.
I mean, being diabetic, I need to exercise regularly and then being paralyzed, that's important that I exercise.
And then in the winter we don't get as much daylight.
So if you don't get outside, at least at lunch to look at the sunshine or something, you can definitely go stir crazy.
And that's like a medical issue with people, especially in Alaska.
We have a lot of depression.
So yeah, for my physical well-being and my mental well-being, I like exercising and just being active and doing things.
I had a pretty positive outlook on most of my life and I was super friendly and I spent a lot of time trying to help people even before I get hurt.
So I had a ton of social support, friends support right away.
You know, friends kind of make the world go round.
I had for 60 days, 60 people showed up just to make sure I was getting outside to do a bike ride.
So that was super helpful at the end of that first year because I still didn't have any ski year then and I had just gotten the first bicycle.
So it was super helpful to get outside and even if I wasn't feeling like it that day I had friends help drag me out.
So that was super nice.
And you know, eventually I mentally got better and chose to be more happy and have more fun, but just not knowing how or not having the inspiration right away was pretty hard.
So I had a boot punted firmly up my (expletive) and got told, “we're gonna go outside.
” I do a lot to just generally help people with disabilities.
I donated 12 sit skis to the Anchorage School District so kids with disabilities can get outside and play.
Like, I'm going tomorrow to a group called Challenge Alaska, and once I broke my back, they definitely gave me the ability to ski again.
Challenge Alaska exists to provide adaptive sports and therapeutic recreation to all Alaskans living with disability.
You name it, If there's an Alaskan living with a disability and they want to find a way to do a recreation activity, we're going to find a way to make it happen for them.
I met Ira about 13 years ago when I started with Challenge Alaska.
And over the years he's served as a mentor and role model for many Challenge Alaska participants, including my daughter, who is also a monoskier here on the mountain.
(3, 2 1) Ira has been a steadfast fundraiser for us over the years, and this year is no exception.
Hes been out there raising a ton of funds for us.
I always used to volunteer a lot.
I focused pretty much on disabled sports and I do a lot of avalanche safe because I work in the ski industry.
When I was younger, I was caught in an avalanche and that's super scary.
And so I've spent a lot of time showing ski movies and everyone loves ski movies.
So this is how I raise money to help the avalanche centers out and it raises money for the school district and the kids in the schools, as well as helping us raise money for avalanche center's and nonprofits.
But I'm good at organizing things like that.
And Im very grateful for what I have I could be bitter about the things Ive lost I've cut a lot of trees, and this was just an accident At first I kept trying to think how I couldve fixed that.
But it's, you know, one of those things and I'm happy to be here And some of that took some learning to be happy for what I got.
Initially, I was really bummed about the things I had lost.
But the last eight, ten years, it's been pretty nice.
You're allowed to have bad days.
I mean, you're allowed to not be okay sometimes, but yeah, for me, I'm very grateful for what I have.