The run before, former Vernon freestyle skier and coach Mike Shaw nailed the the Nutbutter 720.
Shaw, 26, was demonstrating the technical trick on Dec. 16 at the Keystone Ski Resort near Denver to his group from Calgary’s WinSport Academy, where he has spent the last two years as the academy’s halfpipe skiing head coach. The group was in Colorado for some pre-Christmas training and contests.
Shaw completed the Nutbutter 720 again but, upon landing in what he called “punchy snow,” his skis and boots went through the snow and his ski popped off, propelling Shaw forward, as if going head-first over the handlebars on a bike.
Shaw landed on his neck, suffering a severe injury.
“I’m doing well, thanks, just dealing with some issues in Denver,” said Shaw from his hospital room Monday morning.
He was in the trauma intensive care unit at the hospital for five days, placed on blood pressure medication to help the initial healing of his spinal cord, and underwent surgery to repair damage to his vertebrae and torn ligaments in his neck.
The good news, according to his mom, Pippa, is that her son suffered an incomplete spinal cord injury, and that there is a good chance of a full recovery after a lengthy rehab.
“He has mobility in all four limbs with some control, but not complete control, especially in the hands,” said Pippa. “He does have some feeling in his limbs but not complete feeling in certain areas.”
A native of England, Shaw came to Vernon with his family when he was six and later became part of the Silver Star Mountain Resort’s freestyle ski team.
His coach at the time was Josh Dueck, who suffered his own serious injury when he broke his back after overshooting a demonstration jump, leaving him paralyzed.
Dueck has since gone on to become an amazing sit-skier, winning a silver in the slalom at the 2010 Paralympics in Whistler, and becoming the first sit-skier to complete a backflip on snow.
Dueck has reached out to Shaw, as have many of Shaw’s friends and colleagues, “an overwhelming outpouring of love and support,” said his mom.
“I feel real fortunate and very positive with all of the support,” said Shaw. “The reaching out from the community is touching, and it motivates me to get better.”
His family and some close friends have been at his bedside in a Denver hospital since the accident. Shaw said he’s trying to stay positive but concedes it’s not the easiest thing to do at a time like this.
“It happened, there’s no sense in dwelling on it,” he said. “I’m more looking forward to moving on with it, taking each day as they come and trying to get myself as healthy as I can.
“I hope to be back in Vernon soon to say hello to everyone in person.”