A letter from an Athlete | Max Elles
LETTERS FROM AN ATHLETE IS A SERIES THAT FOCUSES ON SHOWCASING SOME OF OUR ATHLETES, WHO ARE PROUD TO REPRESENT AND BE SUPPORTED BY HIGH FIVES. IT’S ALSO A CHANCE FOR US TO SHOW OFF HOW APPRECIATIVE THE FOUNDATION IS TO CONTINUE TO SUPPORT THESE INDIVIDUALS AS THEY CHASE DREAMS, COMPLETE GOALS, AND INSPIRE OTHERS.
A Letter From an Athlete
High Fives is incredibly proud to have been able to watch and support Max through his recovery since the beginning.
It is always unfortunate meeting someone under the circumstances of a severe injury, but it is at that time when the injured individual needs the help and support of High Fives. High Fives met Max after he sustained a spinal cord injury from hitting a waterbar while snowboarding.
We knew right away that Max was going to be successful in his recovery and life. We watched as the young man charged through rehab back unto the snow, ocean and into the life he loved.
Max’s infectious positive attitude and care for all thoes around has taken him so far since her injury. We look forward to see how he will continue to represent the Foundation by being the best version of himself.
A Letter From Max
In December of 2012, I was home at Killington, VT on holiday break from UVM. Southern Vermont had just gotten the first good snowstorm of the season- 36 inches in 24 hours. I was out riding with a group of my childhood best friends. Our group had been riding together for many years and knew our mountain(? “playground just sounds vague) playground really well. We were skiing woods trails and secret stashes like champions. Around noon we decided to head from Bear Mountain to Killington’s main base area for lunch. I decided to ride a closed trail Ovation, which was the most direct and untouched.
Ovation seemed to have bottomless powder. Ovation trail ends with a long flat run out to the Killington Base Lodge. In an attempt to blaze a trail through the deep snow all the way to the lodge I was riding about 50 mph. Instantly my momentum stopped, I struck something frozen solid in the blanket of serene powder. A sudden impact with a hidden water bar sent a tremendous force from below my right foot into my spine completely shattering my L1 and T12 vertebra. I was sent tomahawking down the trail; all the while thinking about my life’s decisions that had led to me being there that day.
When the snow settled, I was buried and could not move anything below my belly button. I was stricken with remorse, but immediately changed my attitude as a means of survival. While waiting for ski patrol and rescue services, my best friends gathered around and kept me positive. I knew my life had just taken a complete change in direction, but I did not yet know what I would make of it.
High Fives has shown me how to live life to the fullest every single day. Before my accident I had aspirations of bringing home X-games and Olympic gold medals to our community. In my recovery, I decided to retire from competitive snowboarder-cross but have found many more rewarding facets in life. Through High Fives adaptive camps I have discovered new passions. Surfing and fly-fishing have given me a greater respect for our planet and our recreation opportunity. Thanks to the funding from Empowerment Grants I now have the strength to hike, bike, snowboard, or try something new 365 days a year.
The generosity of so many individuals that contribute to High Fives’ mission has instilled a passion of volunteering in my life. I work with the local elementary school teaching youth how to snowboard. This has become the most rewarding experience of my life. In two years I have helped local youth overcome personal challenges, set and achieve goals. Secondly, I have become a volunteer firefighter in my hometown. This is still a challenge that is often scary for me. I felt compelled to serve my community. I owe it all to High Fives.