Ski Resort Life

Standing Tall

After a park crash, Roy Tuscany was wheeled into a hospital as a paraplegic. He walked out. The experience led him to launch High Fives to help injured athletes. He hasn’t stopped moving since.

SKI » How did you get injured?

R.T.» In 2006, I was a coach with the Sugar Bowl Academy, and we were in Mammoth.
I made a mistake that morning and didn’t do a speed check. I ended up overshooting a feature and coming down from 30 feet in the air. The impact felt as if my hips went through my shoulders. The crash resulted in a T-12 burst fracture, causing me to be incompletely paralyzed from the belly button down.

SKI » Why did you start High Fives?

R.T.» It was a way for me to pay it forward. During my recovery, I came to the realization that there needed to be a group that helped people who were not as fortunate to have the support I received after my injury.

SKI » The athletes are so good now, you’ve noted that they almost make it look too easy.

R.T.» The kids don’t realize how much these high-level athletes train. It’s not a fluke that someone does a cork five off a 50-foot cliff. The pros, the media, us—we all need to do a better job publicizing the training, preparation, and professionalism that go into capturing a big podium win or a big moment on film. It was my fault for not doing a speed check that day. High Fives wants to prevent that single mistake that an athlete makes that causes a life-altering injury. Education is huge for us.

SKI » Your prevention push this season is #HelmetsAreCool.

R.T.» When kids turn 12, they want to rebel. And the first thing they want to rebel against is safety. You’ll never get an eight-year-old to say, “Hey, Mom, check it out, my helmet is safe.’” But you can get them to say, “Hey, mom, check it out, my helmet looks cool.” It takes 45 seconds to put on your ski boots. It takes five seconds to put on your helmet. 

High Fives has three programs: a Winter Empowerment Fund to aid injured athletes; the BASICS, a push to educate kids on safety; and the CR Johnson Healing Center in Truckee, Calif. In 2008, two years after his crash, Tuscany started skiing again. For more info, go to High Fives is named for the gesture Tuscany used to break the tension between his doctors, nurses, and therapists and himself.