The adventures of Grace Brulotte and her Project Heli Ski have entered the final week and the events are rolling out in exceptional form! On Friday Grace snowcat skied at Fernie Wilderness Adventures with her inspiration brother and special guest Tony Schmiesing. Then on Sunday, Project Heli Ski welcomed a sold-out crowd for their first annual Disability Awareness Night at the Community Centre with special guests Grace and Tony.
Grace commented on Tony’s visit, “Having Tony Schmiesing and Jessica Oja here for the past week has been so surreal… I can’t help thinking how crazy it is that a year ago I watched his video on becoming the first quadriplegic to heliski, and now he’s here in Fernie! We went catskiing, had some delicious sushi, played Catan (which he won by the way)… I am so glad to have met him and know this friendship will last a lifetime. Don’t go tomorrow Tony! You’re definitely an honorary Fernite now!”
Grace summarizes the past weeks activities; “My existence has momentarily settled down, so now I have time to think about one of the most amazing weeks of my life. Hopefully I can put it into words… This week began with welcoming Tony Schmiesing and Jessica Oja here to Fernie, which was almost like a dream. Watching Tony’s video about becoming the first quadriplegic to heliski started Scott Courtemanche and I on our new adventure, and not even a year later I found myself planning out a catskiing adventure with him in our basement… Two days after their arrival was the fulfillment of our first goal, catskiing with Fernie Wilderness Adventures. The day before we didn’t think catskiing was going to happen due to the weather, but it was meant to be. That morning I was vibrating with excitement! I couldn’t believe I, a sit skier, would be heading to the top of a mountain in a cat… And oh, what a view. It was too beautiful to be real! The greatest way to see the world is standing on top of a mountain. Skiing in the backcountry is an entirely new experience, unpredictable yet smooth. The feeling I had weaving through trees and skiing untouched lines was indescribable. Our guides were incredible, especially with helping to get me in and out of the cat, and choosing runs that perfectly suited us. I did some synchro skiing with Tony, conquered a vertical run that almost made my heart stop, and uh… got a little friendly with a tree… To top it all off, the cat rides back up were filled with laughter, smiles, and bad jokes from an amazing team, Kyle Hamilton, Debbie Zammit, Vince Mo, Brian Sheckler, Marta Schmiesing Harrington. I will never forget that day as long as I live, and I feel so overwhelmed by the generosity that made it happen. Sunday was a day of moving and shaking as we prepared for the first annual Disability Awareness Night. It was unbelievably successful, having been completely sold out! We had to bring in more chairs… I can’t say thank you enough to everyone who helped organize the event, as well as all the sponsors who donated items for the silent auction. I am so excited to see this legacy continue. So with all that being said, the only feeling left is being overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the support that is making my dreams come true. It brings me to tears… Thank you everyone with all my heart. PS. Four days till our next adventure begins Purcell Heli-Skiing… ￼:)”
Scott Courtemanche, Grace’s ski partner, does his best to accurately describe their day at Fernie Wilderness Adventures;
”Let’s start with last Tuesday….Emails and phone calls between myself and Fernie Wilderness Adventures about Mother Nature and her ability to completely ruin an incredible snow pack….. Things looked grim for the Short Sleeves, Burnt Pants, and Powder Skis: Project Heli crew. Enter Thursday morning…. Less than 24hrs before 0 hour.
Answer a call from Brian the Operations Manager at FWA. He says, Ma Nature has had a change of heart, the light is Green! We go TOMORROW! I do a little dance!
Enter Friday morning….. 6:05am…… Scott… Scott…. Are you awake…. You have to leave at 6:30…. Move over coffee…..adrenaline has you beat hands down…. 9:30am we are officially briefed, coffee’d and loaded in the Cat…… 11:00am…. First run in the books. Things are looking good! 12:00pm ….. second run and things look fantastic! 12:30pm….we are dropped on this ridge above what I’m told is a run called The Quarry. Polar Chutes…. You’ve met your match. Tony Schmiesing and Brian Sheckler drop in and make it look like the Meadow at Fernie Alpine. Grace and I drop in….. What a run. Steepest run we have ever done! 1:00pm ….. “Grace, can I do that run again on my own?”…. Yes she says! We unload and I say you’re up Tony. He says “No Brother this is all you” I ski one of the best lines of my life. Then Tony and Brian drop in….. They ski hard, hit a wind lip or rock, launch 6-7 feet in the air do a 180 land switch and tomahawk down the run. One of the most spectacular crashes I’ve EVER seen! After composing themselves they ski it out. Tough as nails these guys are. 2:30…….. We achieve Heaven (Ridge), we ski another amazing line and gather at the bottom. 4:00 ……yet another amazing line this time in Paradise. One more we say?…. 4:45 we ski the last line of the day! 6pm…..some après homemade soup and pesto buns in the lodge…..we relive what is without a doubt the best ski day of our lives so far. Thank You seems so inadequate to all the fantastic humans who helped make this dream a reality for Grace, you truly are exceptional humans! Bring on Purcell Heli-Skiing…….. We so got this!”
Grace is an inspiration beyond definition and her accomplishments are to many to list. In sharing her dream and stories she has redefining life’s barriers and is helping everyone set goals and move forward to a better place in life. The people of Fernie and your family and friends will be thinking about you and your big day in the final chapter of Project Heli Ski–a day at Purcell Heli-Skiing!