It’s a bittersweet story for professional Canadian skier Ian McIntosh to tell: The survival of falling 500 metres off a mountain in Alaska, but having your pride shattered because you made an avoidable mistake that could’ve cost you your life.
On April 10, McIntosh, 34, was in Alaska attempting to ski down the Neacola Mountains – a stunt he describes as “medium-hard.” But with a bunch of external factors on his mind, including only having about 15 minutes of sunlight to see what he was doing on the mountain, McIntosh admits to skipping a few steps before attempting his stunt.
“I rushed,” McIntosh, a B.C. native, told Global News in a phone interview. “You only get about 15 minutes of sunlight in the morning on [Neacola], which makes it tough to conquer. And with no light… you don’t know what you’re doing.”
So off McIntosh went down the Alaskan mountain, but part way down, he could tell something was wrong.
“I was skiing into darkness. My eyes were playing tricks on me, I was off my line,” McIntosh said.
Suddenly, he lost control. McIntosh’s incredible 500 metre tumble was all captured on camera as he descended down the mountain in less than a minute.
“I fell 1,600 feet [500 metres] to the bottom. I thought to myself ‘don’t die. Hold yourself together – protect your head and legs’,” McIntosh recalls. “I knew there was no stopping, I just had to hang on – survive.”
Miraculously, McIntosh got away with no injuries. And he thanks his team at Teton Gravity Research, an action sports media company, for it.
“[Teton’s] an amazing team, they have a really strong safety protocol. Within a minute or two I was being airlifted by a helicopter.”
And even though he didn’t suffer any physical injuries, the emotional ones are still with him.
“My pride was shattered. I’m grateful I’m in one piece, I’m happy I wasn’t injured [but] this is what I do for a living. Ninety-nine per cent of the time I’m good. I’m a professional, so when you make a mistake, a big mistake, your pride goes down,” McIntosh said.
“I beat myself up,” he added.
McIntosh says he’s been a professional skier for 10 years but has been enjoying the sport for much longer than that.
“I totally love what I do. I love the mountains, I love the sport.”
When asked if he would conquer the Neacola Mountains again, McIntosh simply said yes.
“I would do it again. This time, I would take my time.”
In fact, McIntosh said he was back out skiing two days after the incident, but on a different slope.