Making spirits soar: Sit-skier launches off big air jump at X Games |

Making spirits soar: Sit-skier launches off big air jump at X Games

David Krause
The Aspen Times
Trevor Kennison makes history with his big air jump on a sit-ski during X Games in Aspen on Sunday, Jan. 23. Kennison broke his back seven years ago on Vail Pass.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

ASPEN — From a paralyzing crash on Vail Pass to the X Games big air jump Sunday, Trevor Kennison’s inspiring journey over the past seven years has changed his life and his family’s world for the better.

A broken back from a 2014 snowboarding accident has been a family’s inspiration for hope, not sorrow and pain.

“I feel super thankful — friends, family, all the support, sponsors. After breaking my back in Colorado. … Just having the whole thing come full circle is just super, super awesome,” the 29-year-old said.

In the years since that fateful day on Vail Pass, Kennison has used his joy of life to find a new journey.

Kennison landed in Avon shortly after his sister moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in 2014. But within a few months, he was fighting to make sense of his new life after weeks at Denver’s Craig Hospital. The lifelong gifted athlete suddenly had to learn how to work for what he wanted.

“The kid’s extremely gifted, but his accident was life-changing in the sense that he knew he had to work,” his sister Ashley Caruso said. “This is the first time he actually had to put some effort into it, and this is what got him where he is today.”

Thomas Caruso holds a sign and cheers along with his wife, Ashley Caruso, right, and Trevor Kennison’s mother, Olga Pardo, left, as Kennison made history on the big air course at X Games in Aspen on Sunday, Jan. 23.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Finding a new path

When Kennison made his way to Colorado in 2014, he was short on cash and couldn’t afford a ski pass. He called his mother, who didn’t skip a beat and gave him a credit card number to buy his pass so he could be outside. Weeks later, the accident happened.

Kennison hit a 40-foot backcountry jump, got sideways and landed squarely on his back. In an instant, he was paralyzed from the waist down. After rehabbing, his new life began, but it came with struggles at the start.

“When Trevor came out of the hospital in Denver he sat in my little car, and he cried and said, ‘Mom, I’m sorry for doing this to you,’” she recalled. “I said, ‘Trevor, this was an accident, and it happened.’”

There was a brief time after his accident that doubt crept in. But the love of his family and renewed optimism have helped him do incredible things on a mono-ski.

Kennison’s mission became being the best freeskier on a sit-ski, and Ashley’s role as big sister helped give him the kick he needed.

The pair made countless laps on Snowmass trails that first winter, and Kennison quickly found his flow.

“Ashley has a lot to do with Trevor’s progress, and she is really the backbone of this whole operation. … Ashley saved Trevor’s life,” his mother, Olga Pardo, said. “He was very depressed, and within six months, he was going to commit suicide, and she put him on a mono-ski, and her and her husband saved him.”

Freestyle sit-skier Trevor Kennison wears his medal at the bottom of the big air jump after a historic two jumps at X Games in Aspen on Sunday, Jan. 23. Kennison broke his back seven years ago on Vail Pass.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Getting to X Games

After his accident, he and his family made it to the X Games, and it was then when his dream started: I’ll be up there someday, Kennison decided.

While he quickly became a confident sit-skier (he’ll be competing in the 2022 Paralympics), he still wanted to be free. And freeskiing, doing what you want on the mountain and not limiting your runs or tricks, became his cause.

“I have a lot of faith in him. He just does it, no matter what, and he’s not going to let anybody tell him otherwise,” Team USA freeskier Colby Stevenson said. “It’s very inspirational.”

Kennison’s X Games reality came true Friday when he stared down the 15-foot big air jump at Buttermilk. That practice run didn’t go as planned as light flurries slowed the course just enough that he didn’t have the speed off the jump to clear the 70-foot gap.

“I had a pretty gnarly crash during practice because I didn’t have enough speed, and I wanted to make sure I cleared the knuckle,” he said.

In an effort to get more speed, he got a big push out of the start house, sending him soaring off the jump and deep into the landing area. He flew an estimated 95 feet in the air.

Kennison was not deterred. He got a ride back up to the top, swapped out his ski and made a second go of it.

“On the second one, I figured one push in would be fine,” he said “But coming in, I was like, ‘Oh, I think I’m cooking.’ … I just boosted right off the jump … but I just couldn’t land it. But it was fun.”

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