Josh Dueck has won medals at two Paralympic Games, been named National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year and appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show; however, the famous athlete remains closely tied to the mountains of British Columbia where he first learned to ski.
“We have such variety of mountain topography, from the Coast Mountains to the interior ranges. We’re also a young mountain culture compared to Europe, which creates its own kind of energy. It’s exciting to be part of it,” says Mr. Dueck, from his adopted hometown of Vernon, where he lives less than half an hour away from the feather-light snow and diverse slopes of SilverStar Mountain Resort.
As a Kootenay kid, he frequented Kimberley Alpine Resort, Fernie Alpine Resort, Revelstoke Mountain Resort and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, embedding the slopes’ twists and turns in his skiing DNA.
Later, as a Paralympian, he logged many hours training at SilverStar, Panorama Mountain Resort, Kimberley Alpine Resort and Sun Peaks Resort. Along with Big White Ski Resort, he says all these ski areas are leaders in their own way when it comes to accessibility. He has fond memories of Whistler Blackcomb, where he freestyle skied as a teenager and later, as a ski racer, experienced the unforgettable excitement of the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.
As an adaptive skier, the 35-year-old continues to redefine the boundaries of snow sports for people who have suffered traumatic spinal cord injuries. Born in Kimberley, he put on skis for the first time in his early teens and quickly took to freestyle. He pursued freestyle competition for several years, but eventually traded that dream for coaching and sharing his passion for skiing with a younger generation. In 2004, his life changed forever when a skiing accident left him paralyzed from the waist down.
As he struggled to come to terms with his new reality, one thing was clear – skiing and adventure sport would remain central to his life. Six years after the accident, Mr. Dueck competed as a sit skier in the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics, where he won a silver medal, and four years later, silver and gold in Sochi.
Along the way, he became the first person to do a back flip on a sit ski, which earned him National Geographic’s recognition as the 2012 Adventurer of the Year; shared his personal journey as a motivational speaker; and starred in the 2011 Mike Douglas film Freedom Chair, which traces his return to the ski slopes after his injury.
Today, with a wife and two young children, Mr. Dueck has retired from the all-consuming life of competitive racing to focus more on family and his role as an ambassador for adaptive athletes. As president of the Live It! Love It! Foundation, he takes the non-profit’s motto, Empowering Through Adventure, seriously.
Mr. Dueck says he feels a sense of responsibility to share his love of outdoor adventure and skiing with people facing physical challenges. This winter will see him expanding the notion of cat skiing with a specially designed trailer that fits four sit skiers and can be attached to a snow cat. That’s the Dueck way; always pushing the concept of what’s possible.
He says he will always stay close to B.C.’s mountains. “I’m looking forward to spending time with my three-year-old daughter, enjoying her learning curve.
“For me, the attraction of spending time in nature is that it exposes who you are and where you want to be. B.C. does that better than any place I know.”
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