VIDEO: Be inspired by the Aussie quadriplegic who heli skis in Alaska

heli adaptive
SJ Heli Skiing in Alaska with her guide Paul Gardner. Photo Credit: Jennie Milton

Australian sit skier Sarah-Jane ‘SJ’ Staszak knows adversity. The adventure loving legend became a quadriplegic after a simple surgery went wrong five years ago. Yet she has recently completed a ski adventure many only dream of, heli skiing in Alaska.

SJ is devoted to showcasing an adventurous life for her young son Hamish. So she took Hamish and a support crew to the mammoth peaks near Valdez in Alaska for the adventure holiday of a lifetime that was five years in the making.

Her adaptive skiing guide, Paul Gardner, trained with SJ for three weeks a year in the hope of one day fulfilling a dream of heli skiing in Alaska. Together with Australian ski legend and kite surfing expert, Jennie Milton, they devised a plan to take SJ, Hamish, SJ’s carer Scotty and Paul to Black Ops Valdez to heli ski.

Then Jen captured the entire day on film to showcase what can be done when you have focus, drive and a supportive team who share your dream.


Together they proved that heli skiing is a viable bucket list event for people with a high level of disability. The logistics are huge but it can be done and it didn’t stop with heli skiing either. The band of merry adventurers also went snow mobiling, fishing, dog sledding and even shot some good ole’ Alaskan guns.

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Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.