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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

About The Author

stash member Max Ritter

I manage digital content here at TGR, run our gear testing program, and am stoked to be living the dream in the Tetons.

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.


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.

It’s stories like these that give people hope and escape the world of bad news. I comment people like Mr. Vega. They are great examples of a positive influence. Thanks for sharing this story! emergency tree removal near me

What a story this one is! Just goes to show there is nothing you can’t do in this world if you really want to do it. I struggle to ski myself so the fact he can do it so well without a leg is crazy to me. What an inspiration! cheap rubbish removal

The Grand Teton is hands down my favourite mountain to ski, but couldn’t imagine doing it with a prosthetic leg, this guys a champion. I’m going back there after this year, been too busy lately to go ski. Sure do miss it. Graffiti cleaners in Geelong