A Conversation with Vasu Sojitra

On today’s episode of The Firn Line, we’ll get to know backcountry skier, advocate and adaptive athlete, Vasu Sojitra.  When Vasu was just 9 months old, his right leg was amputated due to a blood infection called Septicemia.  Although his life was forever changed, it didn’t stop him from pursuing his passions through childhood, which included skateboarding, soccer and skiing.  But things changed in college, when Vasu discovered the joy of backcountry skiing – which opened a whole new world of exploration of the natural world, and himself.  

Since that time, Vasu has immersed himself into the life of backcountry skiing, while simultaneously pursuing work as an advocate for people living with disabilities.  For Vasu,  the goal is to expand the definition of backcountry skiing to the adaptive community.  And maybe this was best exemplified in the summer of 2021, when Vasu and his teammates skied off the summit of Denali, making the first disabled ski descent of the mountain.

I recently got a chance to talk with Vasu about his extraordinary life, ranging from his challenges as a kid, to his self-customized ski outriggers, and his incredible ski descent of Denali.  All that and more, on this episode of The Firn Line.

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Notes

Special thanks to Vasu Sojitra / Cover Photo: Sofia Jaramillo

Written & Produced by Evan Phillips
Editing & Sound Design by Pod Peak
Original Music by Evan Phillips

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Trip Report: The Alaska Wilderness Classic (in Winter)

They say Alaska is a place of extremes.  This ranges from the stark changing of the seasons, to the scale of the wilderness landscapes, and of course, the size of the monolithic mountains.  But it also applies to the races – and I’m not talking about Nascar.  There’s the Iditarod – a grueling 950 mile dog sled race from Anchorage to Nome, that travels through bitter cold temperatures and sub-arctic, coastal storms.  There’s Mount Marathon – a blistering roundtrip run up and down a nearly 3,000 foot high peak, covered in loose rock and scree, and lined with dangerous cliffs.  And then there’s the Alaska Wilderness Classic. 

Started in the early 1980’s, The Alaska Wilderness Classic is less of a formal race, and more of a grass-roots, community driven adventure challenge.  The Classic historically traverses a mountain range, anywhere from 150-250 miles in distance, and the rules are simple: get from point A to Point B unassisted, usually by foot, ski or packraft.  Participants are expected to leave minimal impact on the terrain they cross, and are prepared to extract themselves in case of emergency.  Although the racers are often-times friends, and checking in with each other throughout the race, it’s a serious event, with potentially high consequences.  

And this was the case in the winter of 2020, when Emily Sullivan and her partner, Taylor Bracher, began their journey from the historic mining community of McCarthy, Alaska – to cross the heavily glaciated Wrangell Mountains, en route to Tok, Alaska. 

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Notes

This trip report is made possible with the generous support of The Firn Line Patreon backers.

Special thanks to Emily Sullivan

Produced by Evan Phillips
Editing & Sound Design by Pod Peak
Original Music by Evan Phillips

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Backcountry Master: Noah Howell

 

On today’s episode of The Firn Line, we’ll get to know legendary backcountry skier, Noah Howell.

In an epic career spanning over 20 years, Howell has established himself as one of North America’s most prolific and enduring backcountry masters.  From early life-changing experiences in the Alps, thru a decade-long run of creativity at the helm of the infamous Powderwhore Productions, to a span of big mountain descents in Alaska, culminating in a recent ski decent of Mount Hunter’s west ridge and Ramen Couloir, Howell continues to push the limits of what’s possible in the mountains.

I recently got a chance to sit down with Howell, for an engaging conversation about his life in and out of the mountains.  We started our conversation by talking about his roots in Utah, and how that led to his first experiences skiing in the Wasatch, and eventually to the bigger mountains of Alaska.


Music

• Space Walker / Evan Phillips / Silhouettes (2015)
• Augusta / Evan Phillips / Unreleased (2018)
• Elmore James / Tim Easton /  Paco & The Melodic Polaroids (2018)
• Tired & Hungery / Tim Easton / Not Cool (2013)
• Not Cool / Tim Easton / Not Cool (2013)
• Never Punch The Clock Again /Tim Easton /  Paco & The Melodic Polaroids (2018)
• Knock Out Roses (For Levon) / Tim Easton / Not Cool (2013)


Links

Noah Howell
Tim Easton
Evan Phillips
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Alaska Rock Gym
Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria
The Hoarding Marmot
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