Last updated: 4:00AM 01/18/2019

Alta Blog

Jim Harris Returns to Alta

Jim Harris Returns to Alta

| 2 Comments | January 7th, 2019 | By John Shafer

We begin 2019 with a story of inspiration.  


Jim Harris stands in front of a framed copy of the Powder Photo Annual cover he shot in 2013. If you could see through the window, you’d see the spot where he captured the image, looking down from Alta’s Wildcat lift on a big powder day.  

Four years ago, Jim Harris had an accident that changed his life. He was an up-and-coming outdoor adventure photographer getting paid to play with top athletes in exotic places, planning big expeditions and getting published in major magazines. He spent a lot of time skiing and shooting the most technical terrain in the Wasatch. He was a regular at Alta and even snagged the cover of Powder mag’s photo issue in 2013, with a beautiful powder shot taken from Wildcat Lift. He was living the dream. That dream ended in Chile in the fall of 2014 with a kite accident that left Jim paralyzed from the chest down. In a fraction of a second, he went from being on top of the world to fighting for his life.  


Jim Harris at the hospital after being transported back to the United States from Chile, where he was injured.  

Miraculously, a few weeks after his accident, Jim was able to wiggle a toe. Six months later he was using a walker. On November 21st, 2015, a year after being paralyzed, Jim came back to Alta. Surrounded by friends and news cameras, he stepped into a pair of skis and made some awkward but successful turns on the bunny slopes around Albion Lodge. Considering Jim is lucky to even be walking, it was a very big day.  


November 21st, 2015 – the first day back on skis for Jim Harris, after being paralyzed in 2014.  

Since the accident, Jim has become an outspoken advocate for people who have suffered traumatic injuries. He works closely with groups like the Hi Fives FoundationAdaptive Training Foundation and the National Ability Center to inspire and motivate people in physical rehab programs. When he’s not working with other physically challenged people, he’s on his mountain bike, hiking, skiing or making art. Jim has a degree in fine art and is a landscape painter and printmaker.

Check out his raw, expressive, drawings, prints and paintings on his @gorgeous_storm Instagram page.  


Caption: A woodcut of Little Cottonwood Canyon by artist, Jim Harris.   

Jim started 2019 by doing something that would have seemed impossible a few years ago. He returned to Alta on New Year’s Day and rode the Wildcat Lift. He started out by skiing a warm-up lap with his brother Kyle and girlfriend JP, on Aggie’s Alley. On the way down, he tested his skills on the edge of the groomers in the previous day’s storm leftovers.  


Caption: Jim and his girlfriend JP, nearing the top of Alta’s Wildcat chairlift.   


Caption: First run of the day – Jim skis a warmup on Aggie’s Alley, followed by his brother Kyle, with his girlfriend JP in the background.  

The first Wildcat lap went so well that Jim and Kyle hiked straight up the Shoulder for their second run. The foot of New Year’s Eve powder was a tad wind- affected but mostly soft and skiable. Jim dropped in with confidence and made some strong turns with one little spill. Success! After skiing the Shoulder, he stuck to low-angle off-piste the rest of the way down to the base, leaving his mark in the soft snow.


Caption: Hiking up the Shoulder from the top of the Wildcat lift.   


Caption: Jim kicks up some chunky snow on the Shoulder.   

Jim is an amazing success story. Not everyone who has a traumatic injury is so lucky. That’s one of the reasons Jim continues to work with people who have suffered similar injuries. His story is much-needed inspiration for many people. The symbolism of riding the Wildcat lift and skiing the Shoulder on New Year’s Day is impossible to miss. We’re honored and grateful that Jim chose to make this statement on Alta’s hallowed slopes and we look forward to his continued growth, recovery and progression.  


Caption: After a 12-inch storm on New Year’s Eve, there was plenty of soft snow to be plundered on New Year’s Day.   









Laura Medeiros January 15, 2019 Reply to Post

Such an amazing inspiration. I have worked with those with disabilities and I believe that everything happens for a reason. Jim will make a difference in others lives and was chosen by God to do this special work.

j kevin moran January 16, 2019 Reply to Post

More courage than I have, broken hip in March 18, have to quit skiing while I am ahead. Hate to do it but cannot take another fall or hospitalization. Skied in excess of 55 years never had a bad time until then.


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