If Josh Dueck’s passion for living the dream started at the moment he laid eyes on the mountains as a child, it clearly hasn’t wavered since.
A Canadian Para-Alpine and X Games sit-skier, Dueck has a long list of achievements under his belt, not the least of which is his remarkable feat of being the first athlete to ever complete a backflip in a sit-ski.
Dueck’s quest for getting the most out of life was only briefly interrupted when, in 2004 at age 23, while teaching a freestyle ski lesson at Silver Star Resort, he overshot his first jump of the day, resulting in a dislocated back and severed spinal cord. He was left paralyzed from the waist down.
Despite his accident taking able-bodied skiing away from him, at the time Dueck knew that his accident couldn’t take away his freedom.
“I never felt like my accident took away my freedom. It was simply a lesson in life that I needed to learn. When I returned to the mountains I was pleasantly surprised to see how much freedom still existed for me.”
Thanks to his friends, and in particular fellow sit-skier Mike Coburn, it didn’t take Dueck long to get back to the mountains.
“The idea of getting back into the mountains with my friends was enough motivation for me to overcome some of the reservations and some of the fear that comes along with doing something so new,” Dueck explained. He first got into a sit-ski at Apex Mountain.
“Although (able-body) skiing was familiar, the idea of getting into a sit-ski was rather unique. The first couple of days were pretty difficult, for sure. Riding a (sit-ski) was overwhelming the first couple of times. I didn’t want to get hurt and I was still unfamiliar with the balance and how to sit in it.”
It took Dueck only a couple days to get his bearings in the sit-ski, and by then he had a new passion in the mountains, sit-skiing, and hasn’t looked back.
“It’s freedom of mobility. There are so many different aspects of my life where I struggle to get around. Propelling a wheelchair isn’t always easy. But as soon as I get into my sit-ski I regain complete independence and full movement where I can just truly express myself,” said Dueck, adding that he also finds freedom by riding his handcycle, surfing and doing anything outdoors.
By 2006 Dueck began ski racing, which has resulted in silver in the sit-ski slalom at the Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010, gold at the 2011 Winter X Games in Aspen in the mono-skier X, and the title of IPC (International Paralympic Committee) Downhill World Champion in 2009.
His work in helping raise freestyle sit-skiing awareness should also not be underestimated.
In February, 2012 Dueck completed the backflip, an achievement made even more special considering the memory of his injury. He said he was still in shock at his achievement adding that “it was the most intimidating thing” he has ever taken on.
But Dueck sends a message to those who may also have fear about living their dream.
“My sincere gratitude and appreciation to anybody who’s willing to dream the dream, take a risk, go out there and try and achieve some of their wildest goals.”
Dueck will shred Sun Peaks along with some of the best Para-Alpine and adaptive skiers, snowboarders, coaches and instructors, from March 24 to 29 for the Canadian Para-Alpine Championships and the Canadian Association of Disabled Skiing (CADS) 39th annual festival.