On April 3, Grace Brulotte made history by becoming the first physically disabled tandem sit skier to heli-ski in Canada.
“It seemed impossible and it’s incredible that we were able to prove that it is possible,” said Brulotte. “Everybody keeps on saying that I’m famous now.”
The 20-year-old Fernie resident and her ski partner Scott Courtemanche enjoyed a beautiful day on the slopes with Purcell Heli-Skiing out of Golden along with ski guides Rudi and Jeff Gertsch, Brulotte’s brother-in-law and nurse Cory Greidanus, silent auction winners Ron and Margareth Carrothers and photographer Kyle Hamilton.
Over 30 centimetres of powder had fallen the night before, there was not a cloud in the sky and the temperature hovered around minus 5 degrees Celsius the whole day.
“It was just gorgeous,” said Brulotte.
Courtemanche said their day began with a safety briefing on the helicopter followed by a report on avalanche conditions.
“And [Brulotte] looked white as a ghost at that point,” he said. “She looked at me and said, ‘what am I doing here.’”
“Right up until the point we got in the helicopter she had this apprehensive look on her face but the second those rotors started turning and we lifted off it was just amazing,” he continued. “The smile on her face was the brightest point of my day.”
The skiing itself went very smoothly, he said. There were no issues loading Brulotte’s sit-ski into the helicopter.
Their ski trip included doing powder 8s with Jeff, which is where a pair of skiers create symmetrical figure eights while tearing down the slopes.
“That was pretty legendary right there,” said Brulotte. “And they were beautiful.”
Her record-setting day was accomplished thanks to a community that rallied around the young woman to help her realize her goal. A number of local businesses donated prizes for a silent auction, which took place March 26 at an event called Disability Awareness Night at the Fernie Community Centre, to raise money for the venture.
The event raised over $6,000, which was split between Brulotte’s heli-skiing venture and the organization she founded called the Fernie Inspire the Race to Empower (FIRE) adaptive ski program, which enables individuals with differing abilities to enjoy winter sports.
“Just the fact that we’ve made history is incredible,” said Brulotte. “I’m just trying to process this right now but I’m so grateful that the community gathered around to help me.”
Her heli-skiing adventure capped off an incredible season for the young woman who was born with a rare congenital disorder called arthrogryposis, a condition that stiffens the body’s joints and confines Brulotte to a wheelchair.
Last month, the pair successfully skied the double-black diamond chutes of Fernie Alpine Resort’s (FAR) Polar Peak and enjoyed a day of cat skiing with Fernie Wilderness Adventures.
Brulotte hopes her accomplishments will open doors for other people like her, “Who maybe thought sitting down at the bottom of the mountain was all they were going to get.”