Rob Enigl (right) is a sit skier. And he shreds harder than you. PHOTO: Dustin Jones
Rob Enigl (right) is a sit skier. And he shreds harder than you. PHOTO: Dustin Jones

This Adaptive Skier is Bagging First Descents in a Sit Ski

Paralyzed three years ago, Rob Enigl ticked off Big Sky’s most iconic lines

VIDEO: Logan Bonwell

While on a hunting trip with a friend in 2015, Bozeman local Rob Enigl was in car accident that left him paralyzed without the use of his legs. While injuries of this magnitude understandably leave many people struggling to adapt, it ultimately turned Enigl into a skier.

Just months after his accident, Enigl, who had previously been a snowboarder, learned how to monoski, also known as sit skiing. That was three years ago and on a trip to Big Sky this past season, Enigl ticked off the first known monoski descents of Gullies 2 and 3, among the steepest features off Lone Peak. And though it wasn’t a first descent, he also tackled the most famous run at Big Sky, the Big Couloir. With the support of Eagle Mount Program, an adaptive sport program based in Bozeman, Enigl hopes to show others that even if you're in a wheelchair, you can still shred on the snow as hard as anyone else.

I find that a lot of people that aren't too familiar with people in wheelchairs don't expect too much out of us, so it's nice to show people that you can keep up with a normal person. You just need some additional special equipment to do it.

A week after my accident, I called my friend David Poole, who is in a wheelchair, and he told me all about monoskiing. I spent two months in the hospital, but after that, it was only about four and a half months from my accident until I was on a monoski.

I used to snowboard. I had never actually skied in my life, so up to this point I've only ever snowboarded and monoskied.

When we went to Big Sky, skiing Gullies 2 and 3 weren't really planned out; the plan was just to do the Big Couloir. I did my first run down Gully 1, and when that went pretty good we moved to Gully 2, which no one had actually ever monoskied from top to bottom. After that we went to do the Big Couloir, and then we came back and did Gully 3 at the end of the day. That got pretty sketchy, with a lot of rocks in there. My monoski is of course one ski, so it sinks in a little deeper into the snow so I was hitting rocks all over the place. Luckily I didn't catch up on any of them.

I had never actually snowboarded the Big Couloir. I used to think people that hit that were crazy.

Since I've been a monoskier, I've really liked the steep stuff. The descent down the Big Couloir was awesome, and the view looking straight down it was pretty nuts. The steepness and the length of the whole thing was definitely the craziest part.

Learning to sit ski was kind of like learning how to snowboard. That first day you're on your butt most of the day, but then after a couple days doing it you start to figure it out. Sooner or later you'll catch an edge and eat it, but that's just how it goes.

Monoskiing is great for people in wheelchairs. Especially on powder days, you can just point the thing down the mountain over and over again and you don't have to worry about your knees getting tired.

I like doing the steeper and scarier stuff just because I feel like a lot of people on monoskis kind of stay in the safe area, and I want to show that you can do more than what you think or what's been done before.

There's a couple things that go along with being paralyzed. I had an incomplete spinal cord injury, so parts of my legs still work, but the problem is there's also a lot of additional pain because the nerves don't really work correctly. That combined with being ADD, my brain jumps around a ton. When I'm monoskiing, my brain kind of shuts off and I only focus on the next turn and doing what I need to do to keep going down the mountain.

The pain just kind of goes away completely. I was on a lot of medication after my accident, and monoskiing helped me get off all of it. I found that my brain could just focus on skiing, and I didn't have to take any medication.

Monoskiing is by far the most freeing thing I've found since my accident. When I get on, everything kind of shuts off and I think, "Sweet, I'm not disabled anymore. I can ski as hard as anyone else can."