When separate, the words "what" and "if" can never amount to much. But put them together, and you have something powerful enough to change the world. "What if" is the key to unending possibilities. "What if" is a challenge to go beyond what is considered normal. "What if" can be a daunting term, which beckons into the unknown. "What if" can be the start of a new adventure. Asking myself "what if" has proved to be all of these things. It has opened a new chapter in my life and promises to leave me with memories to last a lifetime. "What if" is what brought me to my newest adventure... Project Heli.
"You have memories to look back on," Facebook told me one morning in May. Sometimes I would click on the friendly notification to take a walk through memory lane, either to smile at some forgotten thought or snapshot of the past, or to cringe over the ignorance of my youth. On May 19th as I scrolled through my memories for the day, one particular video caught my eye. "The Edge of Impossible" was the title. Curiosity got the better of me as I clicked the play button. I was instantly caught up in the journey of Tony Schmiesing, a quadriplegic sit skier, and his quest to become the first tandem bi-skier to heliski in Alaska. I watched his story with excitement, awe, and admiration. And when the video was done, those two little words popped into my mind. What if... My first instinct was to completely dismiss the idea as impossible. But I knew better... Now that the idea was there I could not dismiss it. Not till I had proven whether it was truly impossible or not... I quickly hit the share button on the video and sent it to Scott. He called me a few minutes afterwards. "Do you really want to try this Grace?" he said. "Because we know it's possible, so why can't we?" Why can't we? His words echoed through my mind. It was in that moment that our next ski adventure was born.
"What about Slaying Dragons?" Scott said as we were having a chat through messenger one night. Throughout the scheming phase of our new adventure, we had decided a documentary would be the best way to capture such a landmark. We already had Fernie photography great, Kyle Hamilton, on board to show my life through the lens. But finding a name which reflected all that the project was proved difficult. I skimmed through the list I had come up with, but I knew none of them could be the one. It had to have a certain ring to it. Something that would attract interest. I stared blankly at Scott's name and picture on messenger for a few moments, as if that would somehow help me to have a flash of brilliancy. But surprisingly that's when it came to me! "Short Sleeves and Burnt Pants?" I quickly typed. It was a little odd, and surely no one would understand that it was what our last names meant in French, and yet I felt like I had something... "Short Sleeves, Burnt Pants and...." Goggles? No. Dragons? No. "Short Sleeves, Burnt Pants, and Powder Skis?" I said as a final attempt. I saw the familiar "..." to let me know Scott was typing. "Winner winner chicken dinner! That's it!" Was the response I got. The Short Sleeves, Burnt Pants, and Powder Skis: Project Heli page appeared on Facebook shortly afterwards. The next few weeks were filled with planning, drafts and more drafts of sponsorship letters, hundreds of texts between Scott and I with plan As and plan Bs. After nagging my brother to use his artistic talents and design a logo for the project, he finally caved in and created something that perfectly reflected what we were tring to accomplish. Sponsor letters were sent out to heli companies, so all we had to do was wait...
I had just about finished my routine walk around Fernie one beautiful day in summer when I heard the cheerful ring of my cellphone. I looked down at my phone to see Scott's name flash across the screen, and quickly told him I'd call back when I got home. "Hurry, you'll want to hear this... Call me!" His text said. My heart immediately went to my throat. I knew what it was, and the excitment I felt was overwhelming. I put my wheelchair in high gear and bolted home as fast as I could.
"Are you sitting down?" Scott said. I rolled my eyes and heaved a sigh at this usual sassy comment. "Purcell is in Grace!" The news sent me through the roof! Project heli went from being a bunch of hopeful plans to one step closer to reality. Shorty afterwards we found out our plan B, catskiing with Fernie Wilderness Adventures, also came together in the most amazing way. The support I've had from Purcell Heliskiing and FWA has been so overwhelming, it brings me to tears knowing they think I'm worthy of their sponsorship.
As plans for the most epic season ever continued, heliskiing became the second to last adventure on our list. It would start with first chair of the season at Fernie Alpine Resort, conquering Polar Peak, a goal Scott and I had from the previous season, catskiing with Fernie Wilderness Adventures, heliskiing with Purcell Heliskiing, spending a few days in Whistler, and topping it all off with last chair of the season. Scott's goal was to give me every recreational skiing experience possible, and by our ambitious list of quests, the season of 2017 would not disappoint! So many dreams, dreams that would not only take me where I never expected to go, but also would break down barriers and preconceived notions of what is possible for individuals with disabilities. The season promised to be unlike any other... Stay tuned to find out more... :)