My “Second First Time” Backcountry Skiing: Heliskiing with WAS and Powderbird!

By Wally, WAS instructor and mono skier

When I sustained a  spinal cord injury in 2002, I remember someone telling me that life will be hard. That was certainly true but it did not mean my life was going to be void of adventure. Fast forward 20+ years and I am seeing the Wasatch like I never dreamed of.  Wow, what a day!  It started with a flight to Cascade Mountain revealing breathtaking aerial views of the Wasatch and beautiful blue skies. I was stunned when we landed right on the ridge top! I thought to myself, “Are you serious? You want me to get out here?” Our adventure just went to the next level! Spring conditions in the backcountry are some of my favorites – everything from powder to mash potatoes with a little crust thrown on top. It’s been over 20 years since I was perched over 10,000 feet in the Wasatch back country. Every winter as I ride the resort lifts, I reminisce about standing on the highest ridge lines and skiing  my favorite powder stashes. Well, say no more. It was time to put all my years of countless falls and sit skiing secrets to the test. 

Even though I am now a sit skier, I never forgot the feeling of floating through untracked cold powder on a shady north facing slope! The skiing was invigorating (no lack of face shots), challenging  yet bittersweet. This back country experience  has eluded me for so many years.  The Powderbird guides, Logan and Rob, were professional, enthusiastic, and very patient. Tyler, our ace pilot, was amazing dropping us off on mountain tops. Jason and Don from WAS did the heavy lifting (literally). They kept me out of trouble with the helicopter and little things like sketchy traverses, cliffs and cornices. It’s difficult to express what it is like to be a prisoner in your own body and then to be set free for a glorious day. 

 I am more motivated than ever to get back into the backcountry. WAS is a superb avenue for me to share my love for the snow and mountains with other disabled outdoor enthusiasts. Experiencing the mountains today in a way that seemed so intangible for so many years, gives me fuel to help others find similar adventures. Mono skiing is hard but always an adventure filled with excitement and frustration, freedom and yearning, elation and pain, comradery and solitude.  Thank you all for a day I will relive repeatedly in my head for years to come.