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​Santiago Vega Makes First Disabled Descent of Grand Teton

Earlier this month, Santiago Vega completed the first-known disabled ski descent of the Grand Teton with IFMGA guide Mark Smiley via the Ford-Stettner Couloir, one of the 50 Classic Ski Descents on North America. Vega was born with Fibular Hemimelia on his right leg and Poly-syndactyly on right hand. At 5 months old, Santi and his family began traveling from Santiago, Chile to Salt Lake City once a year medical treatment at Shiners Hospital. In Utah, Vega started ski racing at age 14 and competed in the Olympics at age 16 for Chile. Soon after the Sochi Games, Vega fell in love with backcountry skiing and developed a custom prosthetic for ski mountaineering.

Like many skiers, Vega has been enthralled with the idea of skiing the Grand Teton. When he was 7, he became obsessed with the mountain for the first time on a winter road trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. In 2017, Vega climbed the Grand in the summer via the Owen-Spalding route. While climbing, he says all he could think about was that it would be way easier to do it on skis and eventually “slid into Mark’s Instagram DM’s” and asked him to take him.

Shortly after test run down another Teton-area testpiece - the infamous Apocalypse Couloir - early this month (also a first-known disabled descent), Smiley and Vega set out to climb the Grand and made it happen with perfect conditions.

This accomplishment is huge in reframing what being disabled means. As Disabled or Adaptive Athletes we are always questioned about our ability when compared to non-disabled Athletes; always needing to prove ourselves. Sharing narratives like the First Disabled Descent of the Grand can help break down those stigmas with our world and empower the Disability community to gain more visibility in being human especially when we are provided access to resources and opportunities to finding our own summits in life.

– Vasu Sojitra

Having a chance to be part of an accomplishment like this does not come around very often. I was super impressed with Santi's drive, performance and humility throughout the entire journey. Before going for the Grand, we skied another steep technical couloir in the Tetons, Apocalypse Couloir, together to get to know each other a little better. He did great on that, despite pretty tough snow conditions, so that made me stoked to try the Grand. On the Grand, both up and down, there were a few times I had to remind myself he was missing his lower leg.

– Mark Smiley

I currently work with a team in Bendigo and we have a very diverse range of people with special needs. Many have been skiing and snowboarding and said it really helped them to feel alive again and like they could enjoy life to the fullest. No disability can stop you from achieving your goals. Thanks for the article and writing it.

Tony

What an inspiring story! This truly makes you believe that anything is possible with dedication and hard work. Thanks for sharing his story! Kudos! Septic Replacement

This is really inspiring. Looking at someone like this and still being able to achieve this much just shows how much we complain and never test our limits. Awesome article and definitely one to remember as a concrete contractor

    Also, just wanted to say that him being passionate about it from being young and then getting presented with setbacks but still achieving what he wanted shows how tenacious he is. Hopefully we will all learn from this.

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​New Mt Hood FKT Set By A Former Navy SEAL in his Underwear
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​New Mt Hood FKT Set By A Former Navy SEAL in his Underwear

​New Mt Hood FKT Set By A Former Navy SEAL in his Underwear

Chasing Fastest Known Times is a pretty weird part of our mountain sports world. Many would argue that the style required for setting FKTs in the mountains takes away the fun and turns the sport into nothing more than chasing a number, but you can’t deny that many of these feats are really f***ing impressive. Take, for example, Jack Kuenzle’s recent FKT of Oregon’s Mount Hood. On April 24, Kuenzle, a former Yale club hockey player and Navy SEAL, smashed both the summit time and the roundtrip

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​Christina Lustenberger and Brette Harrington Score First Descent on Baffin Island
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​Christina Lustenberger and Brette Harrington Score First Descent on Baffin Island

​Christina Lustenberger and Brette Harrington Score First Descent on Baffin Island

This season has been a big one for Christina Lustenberger in the first ski descent department. After a stellar winter and early spring hunting big lines in British Columbia, she set her sights on an expedition to Baffin Island, where she joined Brette Harrington, Hilaree Nelson, Emily Harrington, Drew Smith, Jordan Manoukian and Mathis Dumas. Camping on a frozen fjord, the crew ticked of a series of ambitious ski objectives, including a repeat of the classic Polar Star Couloir and a first

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​VIDEO: Tof Henry Freerides The Aiguille du Midi North Face
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​VIDEO: Tof Henry Freerides The Aiguille du Midi North Face

​VIDEO: Tof Henry Freerides The Aiguille du Midi North Face

Up until a few weeks ago, Chamonix, France had been having what locals were calling the worst winter in 20 years. Luckily, April and May delivered a series of healthy spring storms that brought a few meters of that sticky icky to plaster the area’s icy north faces. With lines finally filling in enough to plausibly ski them, locals like Tof Henry got to get their freeride wiggles out. It’s hard to explain truly how gnarly a descent like skiing the North Face of the Aiguille du Midi is –