Earlier this year, Omnipod ambassador and professional snowboarder Sean Busby became the first person with diabetes to backcountry snowboard on every continent. Come along for the journey as Sean talks about his experience making history and how having type 1 diabetes may have helped him on his way to the top of the mountain (and then of course shredding powder down to the bottom).
In 2012, I got married and quickly headed on a backcountry ski/snowboard honeymoon expedition with my wife Mollie to Eastern Europe that would later become a story in Frequency Snowboard Magazine. We wanted to explore and ski/ride the Carpathians and Făgăraș Mountains of Romania, and then the highest mountain range in the Balkan region, the Rila mountain range of Bulgaria.
Venturing through Canada
Following those two expeditions, I traveled to Newfoundland, Canada with another professional snowboarder (and fellow athlete with type 1 diabetes) to backcountry snowboard Gros Morne National Park. Gros Morne is an area where the actual Earth’s mantle has been forced up through the crust of the Earth, creating mountainous terrain that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. This region was a perfect new zone to go to a new, unique mountain range and have the chance to snowboard the “Earth’s insides.”
My parents also used to live in Goose Bay Labrador, Canada while my father was in the U.S. Air Force. He always spoke of Newfoundland and some of its amazing communities and terrain. Thus, I had actually wanted to visit the region for a few years and to snowboard it was just more icing on the cake.
After the Newfoundland expedition, we traveled to Canada’s Yukon Territory and met up with Mollie. In the Yukon, we stayed in an off-the-grid cabin where we cooked food over a wood stove. There was no electricity and our cabin faced to the north, thus every night the northern lights would wave around and we could just watch from our beds. This cabin was also an outpost of a dog sledding facility, so we would start our days skiing through yards of 50+ barking dogs waiting to go out for a sled run (and many of which were training for famous races such as the Iditarod and/or Yukon Quest). We explored countless miles of burly, rugged snow-coated mountains and even ventured over into Alaska for some more turns.
Traveling in a Sustainable Motorhome
I finished off my 2012 season again in New Zealand.During the late spring of 2012, Mollie and I, along with another couple, gutted and converted a 1977 Dodge Travel Queen motorhome into a sustainable mobile basecamp that ran off of veggie oil and solar power. We then drove the 27-foot-long motorhome over 6,000 miles from Utah to Alaska and back on alternative fuel. Along the way, we skied/snowboarded/biked/and climbed in Montana, British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon Territory and, of course, Alaska. The expedition took 32 days and was one of the wildest adventures I had ever been a part of.
Expedition to Central Asia
In 2013, Mollie and I left for a ski/ride expedition to central Asia. We traveled deep into Tian Shan mountain range and Khrebet Babash-Ata Mountains of Kyrgyzstan. We worked alongside our ski/snowboard sponsors to not only explore and ski/ride these remote peaks, but also to bring gear and supplies over to local villages and families. In addition, we brought over bags upon bags of donated ski gear and snowboards. We worked with local villagers and children, teaching them the sport of skiing/riding and teaching adults/local guides about safe guiding/avalanche practices. Following this expedition, we both headed up above the arctic circle of Norway where I was then guiding a backcountry ski/snowboard group (who all had type 1 diabetes) and a professional photographer around the Lyngen Alps under the midnight sun.
In December of 2013, Mollie and I headed back to Asia for an expedition to China. Then after the New Year’s holiday in 2014, we departed for a separate expedition to Japan in the Japanese Alps. Shortly after my return from Asia, I was in full prep mode for a backcountry ski/ride expedition to Africa’s High Atlas Mountains, which would also mark my seventh continent. On February 15th, 2014, I joined the ranks of a select few who have snowboarded all seven continents, let alone backcountry snowboarded all seven. And thus, I became the first person to backcountry snowboard/snowboard all seven continents while living with type 1 diabetes.
Accomplishing my Goal with Diabetes
I never envisioned snowboarding all seven continents…it’s something that just happened with the nature of my career. I’ve always had a drive to explore various remote locations with my snowboard around the world and thankfully there are mountains on every continent. The joy that I get is not by accomplishing a new goal, or by being the first person to stake a claim on a title or lay the first ever turns down by a human on a mountain. The joy comes from the feeling of accomplishment I get when on top of a mountain peak in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country or vast landscape — that’s the drive I’ve always had and likely always will. Looking out across hundreds of other peaks and endless valleys with the only other thing around me from the “outside world” being my insulin pump delivering me the medicine that allows me to continue following my dreams. I have learned so much about myself by pushing my limits in so many extremes that it has also allowed me to really understand how my diabetes works with my body.
And with the conclusion of one goal is the development of another. Expeditions across Greenland, Bosnia, Kosovo are now on the top of my new list!
Check back soon for Sean’s next post as he continues to take you inside his exciting experiences with diabetes across the seven continents.