The last thing Roger Strong remembers from that early April day skiing Snoqualmie Pass’s Slot Couloir is dropping in, putting his ava-lung in his mouth, and then disappearing into the blackness of an avalanche. When he finally came to a stop, a tree had caught his skis and wrenched his tibias from his femurs.
A year to the day after the accident, Strong climbed back up Slot Couloir. Months of being wheelchair-bound and suffering through intensive physical therapy changed his sense of what experiences aren’t worth the risk and, more importantly, why some backcountry risks are still worth taking.
Is this something I want to continue to do? Of course it is. ‘Cause the mountains are just about the biggest part of what makes me breathe. To take that away would be like squeezing out 50% of the oxygen that I breathe. We’re all going to make mistakes. It’s truly learning from them that makes life really sweet.
It’s not a surprise that someone like Strong can come back to skiing after almost dying in an avalanche. Working through physical and mental challenges is often what it takes for people to become long-term athletes in the first place.
What this film about Strong illustrates is that injury, and being out of the game, is often looked back at as part of the journey. A learning experience that brings them closer to nature, even while they more closely evaluate their role in it.
Have you ever had an accident that changed the way you look at adventure? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
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Frequent Matador Contributor Eric Warren has lived in various Montana locales including Missoula, Big Sky, Bozeman, and Billings, for 25 years.