By Ezra Black
There are a lot of ideas of what living with a disability is like.
“I would say half of them are romanticized and the other half are just plain ignorant,” said Grace Brulotte.
The young woman is trying to set the record straight by having a ski season like no other. She’s on a quest to become the first physically disabled woman tandem sit skier to heli-ski in Canada.
In April, Purcell Heli-Skiing out of Golden will be taking Brulotte and her ski partner Scott Courtemanche on their heli-skiing journey along with two photographers, two guides and an ER nurse.
For safety reasons, the helicopter has been booked solely for their use, where normally it would serve multiple groups. Brulotte’s sit ski is being modified for the occasion so it will fit in the helicopter.
“For years people have said that it is impossible to do,” said Courtemanche. “And it actually has been attempted before and has been successfully completed in the [United States] by a male quadriplegic.”
“Anything is skiable one turn at a time,” he added.
Brulotte was born with a rare congenital disorder called arthrogryposis, a condition that stiffens the body’s joints. She is not able to do a lot of the things able-bodied people take for granted. She can’t brush her own hair, use a knife and fork or walk out the door to see what the day looks like unaided.
You would think this could keep her off the slopes but it hasn’t.
The 20-year-old has been skiing since the age of 15. She’s also the founder of the Fernie Inspire the Race to Empower (FIRE) adaptive ski program, which enables individuals with differing abilities to enjoy snow sports on the mountain.
“What skiing means to me is very special,” she said. “On a daily basis, my movements and what I have to do to live, everything is very restrictive and heavy. I don’t have the muscle to easily move my arms so every time that I want to move, it feels like I’m moving underwater.”
“Whenever I ski, it really frees me emotionally and physically,” she continued. “It shows me that I can be like everyone else, which is not something that I’m entirely used to, and that really the sky is the limit when I’m skiing. That’s something I don’t get on a daily basis…its all so special to me.”
Courtemanche said their heli-skiing adventure will be the culmination of a season that will see Brulotte attempt the double-black diamond chutes of Fernie Alpine Resort’s (FAR) Polar Peak in February and go cat skiing with Fernie Wilderness Adventures in March.