Para-snowboarding pioneer Tyler Mosher hopes to help ‘create a legacy’

Tyler Mosher overcame a broken back to bring para-snowboarding to the world, and now has eyes on Paralympic gold.

Toronto, ON – Feb 28, 2014


When Tyler Mosher broke his back in nine places during a snowboarding accident in 2000, doctors told him it was unlikely he’d ever walk again.

But Mosher does walk. He even snowboards. And next week, the Whistler-based athlete will be one of four Canadians in Sochi, Russia to compete in the first-ever para-snowboarding races at the Paralympic Games.

Sochi is a goal Mosher’s been working toward for 10 years, both as an athlete and as an ambassador for the sport. He worked hard in rehabilitation to beat his initial prognosis, and now has only about 40 per cent paralysis below his waist.

“In my perspective, you’re either living or you’re dying, and I choose living, whether it’s with a disability or not with a disability,” Mosher says from Spain, where he’s training with other world-class para-snowboarders and his technical coach, David Hugill. “I look at the world with the realism that I have some additional challenges, but I focus on my abilities, not my disabilities.”

Tyler Mosher, who has about 40 per cent paralysis below his waist, helped bring the sport of para-snowboarding to the Sochi Paralympics.zoom

Becoming a Paralympic para-snowboarder hasn’t been easy, however. Mosher originally took up cross-country skiing as a way to improve his quality of life and his ability to walk. He didn’t get back on a snowboard until 2005.
The gear the Paralympian uses today is different from the board he was using when he broke his back. The board is shorter and softer than a typical snowboard, and Mosher’s bindings and boots are specialized to act as a kind of prosthetic outside of his legs.

“I try to immobilize my feet as best as I can to enable me to perform the physics needed to steer the board,” he explains.
Once the mechanics were worked out, Mosher was back to doing what he loved.

“Snowboarding’s just a really fun thing for me,” he says.

But something had changed. Now Mosher wanted to use the sport to help others.

“I realized that there was something greater to it than just snowboarding, that I could help create a legacy and do something good out of something unfortunate that happened to me,” he says.

Mosher and a group of other riders from around the world began meeting a decade ago to develop a sport for snowboard aficionados with disabilities.

Eventually they came up with para-snowboarding, a time trial version of snowboardcross, where each athlete rides a course twice, and is ranked based on their best run time. The man-made course includes several of the terrain features able-bodied athletes ride, such as banked turns, rollers and jumps.

“It tests the athlete to have a full repertoire of skills,” says Dustin Heise, director of sport development for Canada Snowboard.
After years of worldwide competitions, the International Paralympic Committee announced in May 2012 that para-snowboarding would be an event in Sochi.

And Sochi’s just the beginning, says Heise. This year’s Games will show people in the disability community that they can get on a snowboard, and give them heroes to look up to, he says.

“It’s just the start of something really fantastic from every angle,” Heise says.

For Mosher, watching para-snowboarding become an international sport at the highest level has been an honour. There have been other honours too, however. Mosher’s racked up a number of titles over the years, including gold in World Cup and World Championship events. He’s even been to the Paralympics before, finishing seventh in para-Nordic skiing in Vancouver in 2010.
This year will be different, he says. This is his sport, his time to shine. Mosher sees himself bringing home a medal from Sochi.

“I’d love to win, and, if not win, be on the podium,” he says. “But at the end of the day, I just want to go out there and do my best. And if I’ve done everything I can do to win and I don’t, I guess I’ll have to live with that and be happy with that.”