Vasu Sojitra is an athlete for The North Face, was recently featured in the ski film, The Approach, and ticked off what’s considered the first disabled ski descent of Denali (20,310 ft.) To say Sojitra has been busy in the backcountry is a bit of an understatement, but the skier, who lost his right leg as an infant, isn’t stopping there. He’s also committed to diversifying the outdoors, advocating for intersectionality and showing up as a mentor to other professional athletes and newcomers alike.
By Lucy Higgins • April 12, 2022
As told by Vasu Sojitra:
This idea of accessibility is constantly evolving and perspective driven. It’s an accommodation to an individual’s needs. For example, outdoor access would be much different for me than for someone using a wheelchair, or even for someone who might have a similar disability to me but may have different access to knowledge, mentorship, or equipment. So it’s all really relative. For me, the idea of accessibility is more of a mindset in how flexible and accommodating individuals are to individuals who have disabilities or body or mind differences.
On the physical access side of it, I use medical equipment like forearm crutches, outriggers— specific equipment that I’ve made from the snowshoe baskets I use for skiing touring to whippet attachments I use for self arresting and climbing steeper terrain. All of that has come through trial and error. That is also from the mindset of being flexible and adaptive to how to make the outdoors work for my needs, versus succumbing to what society tells me I’m able to do.
what i’m sharing with them is a completely different outlook on life as well—whether it’s about disability or race or how to be more accomodating for people with disabilities, or how to be more mindful about creating those support systems.– Vasu Sojitra
I’ve written about my ideas of mentorship when it comes to developing a relationship with Conrad Anker or Ingrid Backstrom, who are on The North Face team with me and have helped me out a lot with navigating the professional athlete space. I’ve also shared that knowledge to others in that community, like Kira [Brazinski, a Jackson, Wyoming-based yoga instructor, skier, and amputee] and other folks of color, those with disabilities, and other historically excluded communities. For a lot of it, what it comes down to is the proverb, “I don’t know everything, but together we know a lot.”
With the relationships I’ve had with people who’ve mentored me in this pro athlete world, it’s more of a two-way street. The information they’re sharing with me, yes, it might be different than what I’ve lived through, but what i’m sharing with them is a completely different outlook on life as well—whether it’s about disability or race or how to be more accomodating for people with disabilities, or how to be more mindful about creating those support systems.