First sit-ski back flip landed in Whistler 

B.C.'s Josh Dueck conquers another challenge

click to enlarge PHOTO BY VINCE SHULEY - ABLED Paralympian Josh "Dewey" Dueck put a personal demon to rest and made history as the first sit skier to land a backflip in Whistler's backcountry on Feb. 3.
  • photo by vince shuley
  • ABLED Paralympian Josh "Dewey" Dueck put a personal demon to rest and made history as the first sit skier to land a backflip in Whistler's backcountry on Feb. 3.

The only difference between the possible and the impossible is one's attitude."

Josh Dueck lives by that motto, always being on the hunt for the next adventure to embark on or the next challenge to conquer. His latest challenge was to land a back flip onto snow riding his sit-ski, which he achieved Friday, Feb. 3.

In 2004 Dueck was the head coach of the Silverstar Freestyle Club in Vernon and was preparing his students for the Canadian junior nationals. While performing a demonstration jump, he entered the jump with too much speed and overshot the landing. The crash broke his back at the T11 vertebrae, paralysing his lower body from just above the waist. At 23 years old, Dueck had his world turned upside down.

But from tragedy spurred a new beginning. In his hospital bed Dueck began to dream about what he could one day do on a sit-ski, one of his more aspirational goals was landing a back flip.

"It took me a few years to build up my skill set as a sit-skier," said Dueck

"Then my focus definitely turned towards the Paralympics, so it was a game of attrition and preservation, I didn't want to be doing too many things all at once so I put it on the back burner."

Dueck proved himself as a para-alpine racer, garnering a gold medal in downhill at the 2009 World Championship and a silver medal at the 2010 Paralympic Games.

After the Olympics he began to focus more on freeride, skiing powder and jumping his sit-ski as seen in the 2011 short film The Freedom Chair.

To rotate a heavy sit-ski in the air is not easy, so the construction of the jump that would land his first back flip was critical to Dueck's success.

"I was super lucky to be lined up with Nick Bass who was the (former) head of the Canadian aerials team," said Dueck.

"We discussed at great length after going to the foam pit at Copper Mountain on what would be the best jump shape. He gave us some advice that was bang on."

The specifications of the ideal jump were handed to Dueck's life long friend Myles Ricketts, a freestyle coach and field marketing rep for Oakley. Ricketts coordinated the construction of the jump on Blackcomb Mountain where Dueck could practice the back flip onto an airbag. After a successful session on the airbag, he was ready to attempt the jump onto snow. The jump was then duplicated on nearby Powder Mountain, where Dueck landed the first back flip on a sit-ski into soft powder.

Dueck's achievement is turning heads around the world, inspiring both able-bodied and disabled athletes

"I think one day we won't be referred to as sit-skiers or mono-skiers, we're just going to be skiers," said Dueck.

"We need to level the playing field. We need to get more athletes competing at a higher level in their equipment."

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