Returning to the scene of a crash that cost him dearly, a former snowboarder-turned-sit skier is nevertheless living it, loving it, and launching it. Behold, the world’s first – and only – big mountain adaptive ski competition. By Cassidy Randall.
Think big-mountain competitions are thrilling? Try competing in one on a sit-ski. In the spring of 2018, the world’s first big mountain adaptive competition took place at British Columbia’s Revelstoke Mountain Resort. It is the brainchild of 33-year-old Jeff Scott, a northern British Columbia native of Burns Lake who now lives in Victoria and oversees the Live It! Love It! Foundation, which promotes adaptive adventure. The seminal event happened on the same mountain where Scott injured himself attempting a roller gap eight years before. The crash rendered him a C5-6 quadriplegic and transformed him from snowboarder to sit-skier, from wildland firefighter to a pioneer in adaptive skiing.
Seven competitors, from across western Canada and as far away as Massachusetts, assembled on the socked-in slopes. Josh Dueck, famed Paralympian and the first athlete to pull off a backflip in a sit-ski, and Ben Thompson, BC Para-Alpine Ski Team athlete, judged the hopefuls as they hurtled down Separate Reality—the same run often used for the Freeride World Qualifiers. Kelowna’s Cam Lochhead took first prize, an all-inclusive trip with Mustang Powder Cat Skiing in the Monashee Mountains with a seat in the Lunchbox, the revolutionary one-of-a-kind trailer designed to tow four sit skiers behind a snowcat—another one of Scott’s visionary ideas.
During Lochhead’s week in the Monashees the skies produced one of the most generous late-season storms in recent memory. The Lunchbox towed him, Scott, Dueck, and Josh Bradshaw (who won a lottery draw earlier in the year) for two days of backcountry runs through the deepest snow Scott himself had ever sit-skied, fully immersed in the white room for turn upon turn deep in the wilderness.
The adaptive ski competition represents an evolution in the perception of powder from obstacle to opportunity, a return of independence in the mountains, and the normalcy of shredding with a crew rather than being the single adaptive skier in a group. “My accident hasn’t changed my love for snow, but it’s completely changed why I go back to the mountains now,” Scott says. “I believe in friends on a powder day.” This season, Mustang Powder Cats is offering commercial sit-ski trips into the backcountry, thanks in large part to the Lunchbox, and Scott is once again planning an adaptive ski competition on Revelstoke’s slopes.