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 discusses 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 2008, I took to the backcountry more seriously. I had explored the outer reaches of ski resorts prior to 2008, but I wanted to set even more focus on earning my turns strictly in a natural way (no chairlifts, just my own two feet).
Backcountry riding is a way of skiing/snowboarding in a real wilderness setting where there is no ski patrol, groomed runs or lift lines. The mountain exists in its purest form and you must make the proper and smart decisions in navigating its components (avalanche terrain, cliffs, crevasses, etc.). Should an emergency happen, you must be self-sufficient and be prepared to rescue/take care of yourself. Being prepared and self sufficient is not an easy task and requires tons of preparation — a skill set that is also heavily relied upon in the management of a chronic disease like type 1 diabetes.
How Managing Diabetes Trained Me Mentally
Managing type 1 diabetes may have been a blessing in disguise, as it has trained me mentally to overcome countless obstacles and set higher goals. I call this mental toughness. It has also given me the opportunity to further push my limits and body. When I was competing in snowboarding full-time, I never had such opportunities to actually explore other countries outside of a ski resort. My routine usually took me from competition to competition in different countries, but left little time to explore. In 2007, I changed that and set off for an extended winter in New Zealand to explore its backcountry with a New Zealand-based photographer. I learned many things during that time in New Zealand in addition to how type 1 diabetes interacted in all sorts of scenarios.
Expedition to Antarctica
In Antarctica, I found another new passion – a passion of seeking out further remote locations around the globe and the true sense of discovery. This was the catalyst of everything that my snowboarding career is today now and I am thankful that most of my snowboarding sponsors have followed along side me during this epic journey.
Snowboarding More Remote Places Around the Globe
In 2009, I returned back to South America and then to Antarctica to tackle and snowboard further peaks on the two continents. I then also began professionally guiding clients on backcountry ski/snowboard expeditions around New Zealand, which further drove me to get to more remote places to snowboard. Thus, following my 2009 expedition to Antarctica I decided to base my snowboarding career around finding some of the most remote mountain ranges around the world while also guiding others. It was a personal challenge on top of managing diabetes in these remote environments. What I would come to discover is that my diabetes could place no limits on me. If I had the goal, I would figure it out and do it. My mind was set and I was ready to go explore with my snowboard.
Sean proposes to Mollie in Iceland.
During the winters of 2010 and 2011, I focused on training and guiding peaks around North America and New Zealand. Then I embarked on an expedition with my girlfriend at the time (now wife) Mollie (backcountry skier) to Iceland. It was on this expedition where I also asked Mollie to marry me while we were exploring the country.
I then sailed and snowboarded the northwest fjords of Hornstrandir Nature Reserve of Iceland. The sailboat served as a mobile basecamp while I climbed the peaks in the fjords and snowboarded them. Each night I would go to sleep under the northern lights on the boat and found this expedition as a perfect opportunity to plan my next large expedition. That summer I returned to another season of guiding clients in New Zealand. Then Mollie joined me on a ski/snowboard expedition to Tasmania, Australia. Tasmania was an interesting journey to say the least. There were wallabies and kangaroos everywhere while we climbed mountains in slushy snow and down-pouring rain. We enjoyed spring-like snow conditions in beautiful landscapes – some of which slightly reminded me of Yosemite National Park in California with a touch of Dr. Seuss magic.
Keep an eye out for my next post when I discuss expeditions to Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and others, including a trip to Alaska when we traveled in a motorhome that ran off of veggie oil and solar power!
To learn more about the insulin pump Sean uses to manage his diabetes on these expeditions, click here to order a free demo.