On April 11, 2010, the last day the hill was open, Jeff was injured in a snowboarding accident that ultimately saw him lose the use of his legs.
>>By Katie Marti
Published in Fall 2013, Issue #34
Jeff Scott’s introduction to Revelstoke will sound familiar to many. He came for the snow.
An aspiring snowmobiler, Jeff fell in love with the backcountry on a trip up from Rossland in winter 2008. By 2010, he owned a house in the Big Eddy, a pass at the hill and was logging as many hours as possible on his sled.
“I would go out whenever I could with whomever I could,” he recalls. He partnered with local Jeremy Hanke, exploring the impact of snowmobiles on the slopes, drawing the attention of the Canadian Avalanche Association (CAA). The CAA was interested in their findings and asked Jeff and Jeremy to speak at an upcoming AGM. As it turned out, Jeff didn’t make that meeting.
On April 11, 2010, the last day the hill was open, Jeff was injured in a snowboarding accident that ultimately saw him lose the use of his legs. “It was a gorgeous day, total spring conditions,” he remembers. “I saw a gap up ahead and just sort of went for it. Bottom line is, I suck at physics,” he says. “I didn’t give enough respect to not having actually looked at what I was jumping and came up short.”
Jeff knocked himself out. He broke his C5-6 vertebrae, located in the lower neck, and that effectively ended 15 years of snowboarding. In his words, his “able bodied and independent life became both a memory and a pipe dream.”
The next year was spent in hospitals and rehab centres with his tight-knit community of friends and family close at side the entire time. “I had a solid riding group of local rippers,” he explains. “They were my first responders and stayed with me to the hospital. I thought I was alone when I got down to Vancouver but the first thing I heard was my sister’s voice asking the ambulance attendant if I was Jeff Scott. I couldn’t figure out how she’d beaten me to the hospital because she was supposed to be at school in Edmonton, but as soon as I heard her voice. I knew I was going to be alright.”
By the time Jeff was released from the G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver a year later, he and his good friend, fellow adventure seeker and pro-skier, Izzy Lynch, had hatched a plan to drive across Canada in a van adapted for his wheelchair.
“I got out on a Friday and we hit the road the following Monday,” he laughs.
The trip was cathartic but also a major source of inspiration as the two spent hours dreaming up a foundation that would help other folks with recent spinal cord injuries continue to pursue their passions in the outdoors.
The incredible Live It Love It Foundation sponsors individual athletes and hosts adventure camps in an effort to bring people together in a community of mutual support and to remind those affected by spinal cord injury that life isn;t over—not by a long shot. As Jeff puts it: Live it Love It “aims to stoke the fire before it goes out.”
Last summer’s camp, held in Whistler, B.C., gave participants the chance to go bungee jumping, biking, kayaking and zip-lining in spite of their individual physical challenges.
Live it Love it has just finished applying for charity status and the crew hopes to grow the foundation steadily by increasing the number of camps held per year and the amount of support they’re able to offer recently injured athletes.
Financial aid comes from all sorts of places. Two fire crews in the area—the Monashee Unit Crew out of Revelstoke and Nadina Zone Crew out of Burns Lake—have been huge supporters, given that Jeff fought fires for years prior to his own injury and continues to have a strong community of friends in the industry. As well, Izzy organized the Martha Creek Meltdown last summer, a downhill mountain bike race to raise money and awareness for the foundation. And the Big Eddy pub frequently hosts gigs with proceeds going directly to Live It Love It.
There is no shortage of support, and rightly so. In a town like Revelstoke where daily lives are fuelled by adrenaline and the risk of injury is ever-present, a beautiful cause coming from an authentic source is bound to resonate.
As for Jeff, he continues to make progress on his own personal road to recovery. He recently entered a contest with National Mobility and Equipment Dealers and was one of only three out of 1200 applicants, and the first Canadian ever to win the grand prize: a 2013 Chrysler minivan fully equipped with hand controls so he can drive on his own.
Anyone who knows Jeff understands it wasn’t a shiny new van he was after.
Independence is something we all seek and Jeff’s injury robbed him of more than simply the use of his legs. To be able to physically drive from one adventure to another without relying on others will represent a level of freedom and flexibility he hasn’t felt since before the accident three years ago—as long as he passes the exam.
“I’ve gotta redo my driver’s test tomorrow. Wish me luck,” he jokes as we wrap up our conversation.
I leave our brief chat feeling inspired by Jeff and his infectious positivity. My own flame has been stoked listening to his story. Jeff is a great reminder that Revelstoke is teeming with incredible people doing remarkable things to improve the lives of others and I, for one, am full of gratitude for neighbours like him.
[Editor’s Note: Jeff did pass his driver’s exam]
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