How it all started…
One snowy day in November of 1993 would be the first time that Mike Shaw, age 6, stepped into a pair of skis. Unknowingly, that moment would shape the next twenty years of his life.
At a young age, Mike was an adventure seeker. His love for adrenaline and extreme sports kicked off at 12 years old. This sparked a transition for Mike from team sports to individual sports where he could push himself, testing his personal limits.
At age 14, Mike got his first pair of twin tip skis, hand-me-downs from his older brother. In his first season of freestyle skiing, Mike was hooked. Out of all the sports he participated in, skiing was ‘it’ for Mike. He’d found his passion; skiing became his number one focus.
At age 16, Mike joined the Silver Star Freestyle Club and began taking his skiing to new levels. His teammates were all set on doing the same thing, becoming professional skiers. Mike got his first taste of freestyle skiing competition, and there was no turning back.
In Mike’s senior year of High School, he suffered an ankle injury while wakeboarding before what was meant to be his biggest competition season yet. With sponsorships on the line and higher stakes in the competition tour, this was devastating timing. Mike tried to push through and compete, but his competitive results suffered. The harsh realization that he would need to stop competing and skiing to fully recover his ankle set in. Mike painstakingly had to step back from the sport he loved.
Mike made the decision to enroll in university while he wasn’t able to push himself in competition. His goal was always to keep skiing and rejoin the likes of his teammates who were continuing on, however, it wasn’t meant to be… In the first month of Mike’s second year of university, he was healthier than ever. He was operating at 100% again after extensive physio and rehabilitation for his prior injury. Mike resumed training for competition, and in another devastating turn of events, he broke his other ankle after hitting the bottom of a foam pit at the local gymnastics club. This second major injury changed the course of Mike’s competitive skiing career and led him into a coaching mentorship role for kids at the same ski club he was a part of years before.
Mike coached the local club teams on the weekends while he finished university. He never lost his passion for the sport. In 2010 upon completion of his degree, Mike moved to Whistler, BC. Mike fell in love with the mountains Whistler and Blackcomb, and was living his mantra: Ski and Survive. If Mike was skiing, he was happy.
In 2011, Mike was hired to coach the British Columbia Half Pipe and Slope Style Ski Team. This was his first high-level coaching role, working with the top athletes from BC. Mike progressed along with his athletes in coaching and skiing. By 2012, Mike had moved up the coaching ladder and was working with National Development Half Pipe Athletes. He and his team would travel the world attending competitions at the world cup level all over North America, Europe, and New Zealand. In the summer months, Mike would spend his time on the Blackcomb Glacier working for Momentum Ski Camps as their Terrain Park Designer/Builder and coach.
Mike was living his dream, traveling the world to ski on some of the best terrain and competition venues imaginable. He had figured out how to ski and survive. There was rarely a month that went by where Mike was away from snow or off his skis.
The fateful day that changed everything…
On December 16th, 2013 while skiing with his team in Colorado, everything changed. Mike was at Keystone Mountain skiing at the A-51 terrain park with his team when he had a severe accident. In a ‘scorpion-like’ crash, Mike dislocated and broke his neck, paralyzing himself from the neck down.
At that moment, everything that Mike loved about skiing was ripped away from him. His athletes were now tasked with helping Mike get off the snow and get the medical attention he so direly needed. Mike’s accident changed his course and set him on a new journey, one riddled with hardship and seemingly insurmountable challenges. He would need to be more resilient than ever to achieve his end goal – get back on skis.
The following two years post-crash were loaded with peaks and valleys of good times and hard times. His determined and gracious demeanor would ultimately be his saving grace. Mike approached his recovery like any other challenge he’d faced, however, this time he had a foundation of gratitude. His story started to spread, and his new mantra #gratefuleveryday began inspiring those around him.
Back on his feet!
Mike’s post-spinal cord injury journey back into the mountains has been nothing short of miraculous.
- 3.5 months after Mike’s accident, he walked out of the GF Strong Rehabilitation Hospital – the first and foremost goal in his mind since day 1 in recovery.
- 4 months after the accident, Mike was back on snow at Revelstoke Mountain skiing in a sit-ski with the Live It Love It Foundation.
- 5 months after the accident, Mike was relearning to ride a bike and drive.
- 6 months after the accident, Mike entered a charity event in Vancouver and walked 5km in 1.5 hours raising $3.5K for Spinal Cord Injury BC
- At the one-year anniversary since his crash, Mike stepped back into the same pair of skis he’d been on 365 days before, surrounded by friends and supporters.
- At 1 year and 5 months after the crash, Mike would participate in the Wings For Life World Run as an ambassador for Spinal Cord Injury. Mike was “running for those who can’t,” pushing himself and making it almost 10km before the race was over.
- Just over two years after his accident, Mike achieved one of his lifelong goals – he and some friends went heli-skiing! This would have been an achievement for Mike regardless of having his accident, showing that with determination and hard work, it’s incredible what is possible.
- In 2016, Mike and two of his filmmaker friends released a documentary on Redbull TV called: Mike Shaw The Healing Agent. The two-year project was a culmination of relentless hard work. Mike was working towards a purpose bigger than his own physical recovery. Getting his story out would surely inspire many people all over the world.
- In March of 2017, Mike took on another formidable goal: Talking about grief in front of thousands of people on stage at TEDx Stanley Park. Mike’s talk was just one more way that he could extend his message and help others. The foundation is gratitude, and after talking to Mike, you’ll see that he truly lives his message.
- Mike now travels around North America working with students, athletes, and organizations. He speaks to large groups and continues to inspire the next generation of young people.
Mike’s second chance at life has given him the opportunity to share his story and motivate others. He is faced with challenges every day related to his spinal cord injury. However, he strives to achieve more and keep pushing his personal limits. Most of his progress he would attribute to attitude and effort and being grateful every day.