Return to Paradise - A Skier's Journey

Return to Paradise - A Skier's Journey

Alder Creek Adventure Center, Bikeworks, Cross Country Ski Area, Downhill Ski Area, Member News, Trout Creek Recreation Center

Former Champion Mike Vowels skis again nearly 30 years after a paralyzing accident.

On April 11, Tahoe Donner will host the Lake Tahoe premiere of Return to Paradise – A Skier’s Journey. (Full details below.) This inspirational film documents former champion freestyle skier Mike Vowels’s return to skiing 28 years after a paralyzing ski accident in 1985. We caught up with Mike to talk about his skiing background, his motivation to return to the sport and his first ski film.

HOW DID SKIING BEGIN FOR YOUR?
My stepfather Jack Graham introduced me to skiing at age 11. I was a quick study, and by age 15 I had become a ski instructor and I taught for another 14 years, until the time of my injury. I competed as a freestyle skier from 1974 to 1976, winning 12 aerial competitions in the Pacific Northwest in the first two years. My 1976 ski season took me on a National Freestyle Tour. My best finishes of that final season included a second place finish in Quebec and a fourth place finish in Keystone, Colorado.

WHAT CHANGED AFTER YOUR ACCIDENT?
Everything in life was more challenging. I rolled-up my sleeves and returned to work 12 weeks after being released from the hospital. I persevered and established a solid career in the commercial construction industry as an estimator and project manager. Skiing was no longer on the table. I never looked back.

WHEN DID YOU RETURN TO SKIING?
At 57, depression began creeping into my busy life. I dove into two years of psychotherapy and the processes forced me to address all aspects of my life, including my broken relationship with skiing. I spent one intense year in the gym getting in the best shape possible. Journaling and psychotherapy prepared me mentally for what was to come –learning to ski again without having the use of my legs.

HOW HAS IT BEEN SO FAR?
It was a lot of hard work, but more rewarding than I ever imagined. I am enjoying my fifth ski season since my return. I am now semi-retired and reinventing myself. My world just keeps getting bigger.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR FILM. 
The film took four years to complete. It’s a journey about self-exploration, discovery and healing. The skier finally faces a traumatic life event that influenced his life for nearly three decades. The film was an opportunity for me to share what I’ve learned in hopes of encouraging and benefiting others along the way. It is dedicated to my stepfather, Jack.

YOUR PREMIERE SUPPORTS THE HIGH FIVES FOUNDATION.  
That’s right. My ski film allows me to pay it forward. My aim is to generate revenue that serves injured veterans through outdoor recreational therapies. If someone else hosts me and the film, my aim is to generate revenue that serves their charitable cause. High Fives is a great organization helping athletes work through similar life situations I faced.

 

PROMOTING THE FILM HAS BEEN ITS OWN ADVENTURE. TELL US ABOUT THAT.
To help raise awareness, my partner Cate and I have set out to ski 28 new ski resorts in reflection of my 28 years away from skiing. We have nine more to complete in April, one of course being the Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Resort.

WHATS NEXT?
I’ll be attending the Snowsport History Celebration in Squaw Valley April 12-15. We plan to move to Sun Valley next winter, where I’ll continue seeking new life-expanding opportunities like stand-up comedy, motivational speaking and forever seeking
to improve my skiing.

Return to Paradise - A Skier's Journey

Join Mike Vowels and friends for the Lake Tahoe premiere. This inspirational film documents Mike's journey back to skiing after experiencing a life-altering sports injury nearly three decades earlier.

  • When: Wednesday, April 11, 2018
  • Where: Alder Creek Adventure Center in Tahoe Donner
  • Time: Doors 6PM | Film 7PM
  • Cost: $20 suggested entry. Donations supporting High Fives Foundation

No host beer, wine and grab-n-go food items available for purchase.