Experience Denali’s First Adapted Ski Descent in Alaska on “Winter Starts Now”

Touring through December, “Winter Starts Now” features two adaptive mountain skiers as they made Denali’s first para-athletic summit and ski descent.

The film “Winter Begins Now” documents several winter athletes in their pursuit of the outer limits. In the 2021 collection is the remarkable story of amputee skiers Pete McAfee and Vasu Sojitra as they descend from Denali to Alaska (20,310 feet). The two men do not have a straight leg. “I love skiing because for me it has become that equalizer,” said Sojitra.

The first adapted ski descent

In late June 2021, and after 2.5 weeks of acclimatization to 17,000 feet, para-athletes and a four-person film crew scaled Denali’s West Rib Road in a whiteout storm, with temperatures dropping to -30 degrees Fahrenheit.

McAfee has equipped himself with an adaptive prosthesis for ascension. Sojitra relied mainly on upper body strength, using poles and a single ski all the way to the top. Each man dragged his equipment on sleds over 100 pounds.

A dire forecast and an ever-narrower weather window forced the team to conduct a ski descent down the mountain. The descent would take 30 hours and would require the team to dispose of the majority of their perishables at height.

The film is Warren Miller’s 72nd annual feature film and is on tour internationally until December. Check out the trailer and learn more about each suitable skier below. For tour dates, go to WarrenMiller.com.

Para-athletes of adapted ski descent

Pete mcafee

Pete McAfee lost his leg below the knee as a child, “which makes it pretty easy to adapt,” he says. McAfee grew up on the West Texas plains and didn’t start skiing until he moved to Oregon in his late twenties. At 33, he had completely immersed himself in ski mountaineering.

McAfee dedicates his free time to volunteer teaching, and he raises funds and raises awareness for adaptive inclusion outdoors through heartbreaking adventures. McAfee and a team of fellow amputees recently climbed several Ecuadorian volcanoes to raise funds for amputees without access to adaptive devices.

Vasu Sojitra

Vasu Sojitra, who lost his right leg to sepsis at the age of 9 months, is an avid cross-country skier and skateboarder. At just 30 years old, he has several notable firsts. He is the first para-athlete to put a 720 on a ski prosthesis, the first one-legged to climb the Grand Teton (which he did without suitable equipment) and the first adapted athlete sponsored by The North Face.

The Indo-American athlete is using these athletic achievements to elevate his outdoor advocacy work for Adaptive Communities and BIPOC. Sojitra’s alleged motto is “to walk in the woods to bring intersectionality to the outdoors”. During the day, he is director of adapted sports for Eagle Mountain Bozeman and short Earth outside, a 501 (c) (3) that provides mentorship and an outdoor community to people of color.

“Winter Starts Now” isn’t Sojitra’s only screen appearance this season. This is his third. “ASCEND” won the official selection at the Banff Mountain Film Festival and the “TNF”The approach” premieres online on November 23.

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