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Trevor Kennison leans in on his monoski and races around a gate ahead of other skiers. His quote, embedded in the photo, says: Once I started skiing again, that changed my life and outlook. Skiing makes me feel whole again.

Adaptive sports champ Trevor Kennison: ‘Skiing makes me feel whole’

After a snowboarding accident left him paralyzed, Trevor Kennison was determined not to give up his passion. His recent Wells Fargo Ski Cup victory is one more milestone en route to the 2022 Winter Paralympic Games.

Trevor Kennison lay on the ground looking up, as snow fell on his face.

It was Nov. 15, 2014. Just moments earlier, he’d attempted a jump while snowboarding in Vail Pass, in the Rocky Mountain backcountry of Colorado, but he lost control when the snow caught the edge of his snowboard and flipped him forward.

Trevor Kennison recorded footage of his first Wells Fargo Ski Cup competition. (2:17)

Kennison crashed, finding himself motionless on his back in the snow — he’d later learn he had broken his back in two places and punctured his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

“I couldn’t move my legs and laid there from 4-7:30 at night,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to make it, but I did. I was lucky that they found me and got me out. The injury and the rehab process taught me a lot about myself. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Trevor Kennison flies through the air high above the snow on his monoski against gray skies. Snow-capped mountains loom in the distance.
Trevor Kennison often features his gravity-defying jumps on his Instagram account, @colombianwheels.

Kennison soon attracted the skiing world’s attention by becoming the first sit skier to jump off Corbett’s Couloir at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Teton Village, Wyoming. “I just love living life to the fullest,” he said. “Once I started skiing again, that changed my life and outlook. Skiing makes me feel whole again.”

Kennison took another step in his recovery and growth as a professional adaptive skier Feb. 24, when he won the World Disabled Invitational — a warm-up event for the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Bejing.

The Invitational was part of the 44th annual Wells Fargo Ski Cup at Winter Park Ski Resort in Colorado. The event, which took place Feb. 22-24 and featured four races, a silent auction, and a raffle, is the premier fundraiser for the National Sports Center for the Disabled, enabling the nonprofit to offer competitive programs and 20 year-round sports experiences to more than 4,000 children and adults with disabilities each year.

Of the $375,000 raised by this year’s Wells Fargo Ski Cup, 34 percent will go toward snow sports, and 66 percent will support other sports such as kayaking, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, sailing, and archery. The proceeds help support 18,000 lessons and more than $90,000 for scholarships and discounts for program participants.

Participant fees cover only 15 percent of the costs of NSCD’s programs, with the rest coming from the Wells Fargo Ski Cup and other fundraisers, individual donations, grants, and sponsorships.

Trevor Kennison heads down a mountain on a monoski. A tree-lined slope is in the background.
Monoskiing, also known as sit skiing, allows Kennison to race down the mountain while maintaining his balance.

“There are very few fundraising events like the Wells Fargo Ski Cup,” said Kim Easton, president and CEO for the NSCD, which has helped people of all ages and disabilities lead more active lifestyles since its founding in 1970. “It’s not a gala or golf tournament or a breakfast, but an opportunity to actually see and experience what we do.”

“I am honored to be able to show everyone the hard work and all the fun that goes into adaptive racing,” Kennison said. “We race the same course at the same speeds as able-bodied racers. Supporting the NSCD through the Wells Fargo Ski Cup levels the playing field for all athletes of all abilities.

“I donated $1,000 of the $3,000 first prize for winning back to the NSCD because, as much as they have done for me, I wanted to give back to others. I look forward to coming back and being a part of the Wells Fargo Ski Cup again in 2020 and to keep pushing my sport — and doing it with a smile.”

Contributors: Hector Batista and Christopher Frers