Trevor KennisonPhunkshun Wear |
Where did you grow up and how did you first fall in love with snow sports?
I grew up in a small town called Keene, NH, – it’s actually where Jumanji was filmed, haha. I fell in love with snow sports as a young kid. My dad had a snowboard shop and he put my sister and me on snowboards as soon as we could walk. I spent a good chunk of my youth traveling with my parents who were both competitive athletes in their own right. When they first introduced me to Colorado, I fell in love with its massive mountains and I knew some day I would have to return to start a life there. I moved there after high school, became a plumber to sustain my lifestyle and fell back in love with snowboarding even more so. The feeling of riding through the trees, that’s when I really fell back in love with snowboarding.
Your snowboarding accident in 2014 changed your life. How did it happen?
In 2014, I went to the backcountry near Vail with 2 friends of mine. It had snowed a solid couple feet up there that day. We were trying to build a jump, but it got dark before we could finish. These other guys come down and said there was already another jump about 500 feet away. Me being me, I was like “let’s go hit this jump!” My two friends hit it first, I hit it last. I was practicing riding goofy on a powder board that day, my setup was a little foreign to me and I tried spinning of off what was essentially a 10-foot kicker. I caught an edge right off the lip sending me into the air, like Superman. Flying through the air head first, I didn’t want to land on my head or neck, so I tucked my head and starting flipping forward. This caused me to land on my back with my board and boots compressing me like a taco. I heard a loud snap right away. I laid there like a starfish, head up the mountain, feet down the mountain, looking at my feet not being able to move or feel them. I realized right away that I had suffered a spinal cord injury. I laid in the snow on top of Vail Pass for three and half hours. The last hour and half was really tough, I didn’t think I was going to make it out of there, as I was dozing in and out. Finally, search and rescue found me.
Now you’re training as an aspiring Paralympian. How did this come about?
My mentor, Jasmin Bambur, helped me out when I was initially injured and had no clue what to do. He told me to stay busy, go to school and try every sport imaginable. The High Fives Foundation had this camp out in Squaw to learn how to monoski and race. I got selected out of 18 people to go to Nationals and that’s how my racing career began. The High Fives Foundation has helped me tremendously. Whether it’s with my ski equipment, or taking me on surf trips, going to Montana for fly fishing trips. Through High Fives, I found great friendships when I needed them most. They are my family and I am very lucky to have found them.
I have heard you passionately repeat “skiing saved my life.” Can you explain what this means to you?
As much as skiing has changed my life, it has also saved my life. It’s a blessing what happened to me, because I wouldn’t have found this love for monoskiing otherwise. I have found a purpose in life. People always say “I’m sooo sorry that happened.” People don’t have to be sorry, everyone goes through their own struggles, able bodied or not. It’s a new life, a new beginning and you just have to roll with the punches. This is my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I absolutely am in love with skiing, I have sooo much fun with it and it puts the biggest smile on my face every time I do it or talk about it.
You’re often referred to as a big mountain mono skier. What do you think that means?
This means to me the same exact thing has an able-bodied big mountain skier. I enjoy huckin’ it off cliffs, the steep and deeps, moguls, tree runs, going to the park and hitting big jumps and rails. I want to show the world what we can do just as much on a sit ski.
How are your 2019 Winter plans shaping up so far?
Well, I just got back from Japan and have always wanted to go there. Such an amazing experience. I am planning some more trips this year to Big Sky/Bridge Montana. Squaw Valley in California and Jackson Hole in Wyoming. I am planning on doing a road gap, a backflip and sending it off of Corbet’s Couloir. Lastly, I also plan on going into the backcountry near Vail Pass for the first time since my accident.
What do you want people to take away from your experience?
Everyone is dealt different cards, being positive and having a good attitude can take you a long way. Always remember, “life’s too short not to be happy.”
To learn more about Trevor’s story, check out his recent interview on The Powell Movement Podcast
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