Return to Dirt reunites a disabled athlete with a part of themselves that can only be found in nature. For many of our athletes, outdoor recreation is unattainable because of any number of physical limitations. With our equipment, expertise and team, we can provide accessibility in otherwise inaccessible environments.

Return to Dirt reunites a disabled athlete with a part of themselves that can only be found in nature. For many of our athletes, outdoor recreation is unattainable because of any number of physical limitations. With our equipment, expertise and team, we can provide accessibility in otherwise inaccessible environments.

On November 18th, 2014, I watched Tim (R2D Founder) land off-balance and crash while skiing in the backcountry near the town of Crested Butte. It wasn’t immediately apparent what was wrong, but there was no chance we were going to get out without help. The fact that we could even place an emergency call for help is a miracle.

For the ensuing hours, we sat together in the snow waiting patiently for search and rescue to arrive. The birds were chirping, the sky was blue to perfection and despite the low battery notification ringing every few minutes on my Samsung slider phone, we maintained conversation. Friends, powder days, microeconomics homework and Sudoku are the subjects of conversation that stand out. Rescue eventually arrived and quickly called a helicopter—the first sure-sign that this indeed was a situation too heavy for either of us to comprehend.

Later that night I learned, alongside his family and friends, that Tim was paralyzed. I remember crying, being incredibly confused and wondering what the life of a quadriplegic could possibly look like. What I did know was that this was not going to be the end of our friendship, that this was not the death of Tim’s persevering character and that I would support him in whatever way I could going forward.

After Tim was transferred to Craig Hospital in Denver, friends and I would drive down from Gunnison to visit whenever possible. As Tim progressed, these visits moved to his home in Glenwood Springs. We would sit around a table in his house, maybe go out to eat, and share time together. Despite being excited to see his progress, I left these visits sad. I was sad because our experiences together were now contained to highly-controlled environments—a stark difference to the go-getting, push-each-other-to-the-limits relationship we had built since meeting in the dorms our freshman year of college.

Every visit I was inspired to see Tim’s increased strength and fluency with the mobility he has, and I figured these physical improvements would be the main dimension of his progress for the foreseeable future. Around the two-year anniversary of the accident, I visited for Thanksgiving and a truck named “Big Horny” had replaced the wheelchair-accessible minivan Tim’s family had been using. “Big Horny” is big, badass and instead of rolling Tim into the back of the minivan, we were transferring him out of his chair and into the driver’s seat of a truck. I have never been a motorhead, but sitting in the passenger seat of this rig with Tim at the wheel was an undeniable turning point. He was picking the routes through the mountains, he was initiating the roosts, he was controlling the speed and he was doing it as if he had no impairment at all. Off-roading with Tim was a return to the same fun we had skiing together in environments much more akin to those we build our friendship in. Instead of leaving these visits sad, I would leave stoked and wondering what adventure we would be able to go on next.
I knew Tim would make the very most of whatever hand he was dealt, but I wasn’t always sure of what that was going to be. Return to Dirt has answered that question. I couldn’t be more proud of Tim, his accomplishments and his drive to share his passions with others. Like we always used to say: “If you aren’t going hard, you aren’t going anywhere.”

-Peter, Board Member