VIDEO: The Edge of Impossible with Tony Schmiesing

A quadriplegic skier’s return to the glory of powder in Alaska

This spring, Tony Schmiesing migrated, as skiers have for decades, to Alaska with dreams of flying in helicopters to deep snow. A quadriplegic skier, Schmiesing’s journey was documented and funded by the Tahoe-based High Fives Foundation. Following his return, we spoke with Schmiesing about deep snow and taking his own path to Alaska.

First off, how do you pronounce your last name?
Tony Schmiesing: It’s Schmiesing like “sneezing.” Through school a lot of teachers would be like, “Tony…ugh…errr…ummm.” It’s one of those names.

I enjoyed watching your story. That looked like a hell of a trip to Alaska. When did the light bulb go off that this trip was possible?
You know, it’s funny. Once I started skiing again, Alaska was always this carrot hanging out in front of me. I was told the bike ski, the equipment wasn’t very good. It’s good for what it does, but it isn’t for powder. It’s meant for groomers. I didn’t want to settle with that.

For me, being a quad, I’m used to having a lot of attendants that work with me so I can live independently. Brian [Sheckler] and I did a little storm skiing these last three years in California. It was enough snow to see that powder is possible the way I ski. After a deep day last season, we said, “Okay. This is on.”

Alaska is logical because it’s a dream place. As a kid, a thing I always wanted to do was ski powder. In terms of equipment, paras [paraplegics] get all the good stuff. As a quad, I had to modify my gear.

Powder skiing is about feeling. It’s emotional. How does that work when you, yourself, do not have sensation from the chest down?
Because I’m so strapped into the ski, that floaty sensation is so immediate. It brought back so many memories. I am the ski. I’m so strapped in. I have no trunk or back muscles, so I’m so harnessed in that…[sighs] It’s so hard to describe. It brought back a rush of feelings…I mean…this is it. Powder skiing is what I’d been missing for so many years.

It’s so different. It’s just…wow. It was like coming home to a true home.

When did you sustain your injury?
I was injured in 1980. I broke my neck in a diving accident at the beach. I was 16.

How old are you today?
I’m 49.

Nice, man. You got up there before you turned 50. That’s sort of everyone’s Alaska goal.
There were a couple 70-year-olds out there charging. Age and disability is a funny thing. There are these paradigms out there about what it is, but despite my situation, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I think age and disability tends to set bizarre false limits. They’re out there as roadmaps, but they are nebulous at best.

Something Beautiful: Three skiers that suffered life-altering hardships have helped others through the High Fives Foundation.

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Week In Review: Winter Won’t Quit!

Plus: Snowbird sold! Camp Benchetler! Fat-biker hero!

Winter won’t quit! Snowbird sold! Camp Benchetler! Fat-biker hero!

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VIDEO: Comeback Kid Eric Pollard

Evo releases exclusive unreleased edit of Pollard's comeback ski late last winter at Mount Hood

In February 2013, Eric Pollard suffered a near-career-ending injury while on assignment with POWDER in Russia. Last last season, he miraculously returned to snow, boosting hips, slashing wavy Mount Hood cornices, and skiing switch, all with his signature style.

Seven months ago, Nimbus released “Four Day Season” and this unreleased footage adds to the comeback portfolio.

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Skiing as Craft: First Tracks

Whatever it takes to beat the crowd

It’s a Monday, a Tuesday, or a Wednesday. The details are blurry. Schools are closed. Cars are buried. Streets are chaos. The weekend annoyances of yeehaw cowboy characters from Calgary have vanished like ghosts. When we finally make it to the base of Fernie’s Elk Quad, snow hangs from every conceivable tree and roofline as a thick whipped frosting. The entire town is standing in line.

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Honey, There’s an Avalanche At the Door

Urban avalanches happen; how one couple protected their home

A Tahoe couple finds their dream home down the street from a ski area. There was only one catch—the house was located in an avalanche zone.

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Junk in the Trunk: Garmin Fenix 2

A watch built with skiers in mind

I have to say, though, that devices like Garmin’s Fenix 2 multisport watch have finally started to suck me into the wide world of data. That’s because the Fenix 2 can track information that I, as a skier, care about, like how much elevation I’ve gained and descended.

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VIDEO: Ski Festa Italiana

Bomb Snow packs up the van and heads to the Dolomites

Spring break in the Dolomites. This is what happens when you pack nine guys and 18 pairs of skis into a Euro van and hit the road from Chamonix, France, to Cortina, Italy. Rumors of deep snow turned out to be haggard spring conditions. But these guys would never let a Euro road trip go to waste.

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VIDEO: Niklas Karlstrom

Pillows, urban, and punk rock

Sweden’s Niklas Karlstrom dropped this four-minute edit that’s split 50/50 between British Columbia pillows and urban sessions in Kiruna, Sweden. We haven’t seen much from Karlstrom since his 2011 short film, Ski or Die, but yeah, he’s still here and isn’t going any where anytime soon. Which is fine by us.

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Week in Review: How to Pull Off the Backseat Ski Drift

Plus burning lift towers! Double black diamond pot cookies! And the new Ukranian ski helmet!

All the news fit for skiing the week ending Friday, May 9, 2013

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POWDER Wins Three Maggie Awards

WPA honors Deep: The Future of Snow, Frozen In Time, and PowderTV

POWDER won Best Series of Articles for DEEP: The Future of Snow In America and The Future of Snow in Europe, published in the September and December issues. Additionally, POWDER won Best Video Channel, for POWDER TV and Best Original or Replica of a Digital Publication for a Tablet for its multimedia feature, Frozen In Time.

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