32 Degrees: Meet Vasu Sojitra
Here, PSIA Alpine Team Member Robin Barnes interview The North Face athlete Vasu Sojitra for the Winter 2023 issue 32 Degrees Magazine. You can read the entire magazine right here.
Vasu Sojitra is a Disability access strategist and professional athlete focused on establishing intersections of human experience in the outdoors. When Sojitra was nine months old, he was diagnosed with septicemia, a blood infection that resulted in the amputation of his right leg. With the tough love and encouragement of his parents and older brother, Vasu developed a strong desire to move freely and spend time in outdoor spaces. By age 10, he ditched his often limiting prosthetics for forearm crutches and never looked back. Today, the Bozeman, Montana-based adventurer strives to challenge the biases that go with being a Disabled person of color – life’s work he refers to as “ninjasticking.”
Robin: Please share a bit about yourself.
Vasu: Much of who I am is rooted in my values: Community, Land, and Joy. Never one without the other. Everything I do in my personal and professional life is intentional – from the language I use, to how I structure my time, to the people I’m around, and the companies I work with. Focusing on my core values has helped me create an ethos I share with the world.
I try to get outside as much as possible. Humans did not evolve in boxes, but it’s how many people spend most of their time. Boxes with lights, boxes with wheels, boxes with bright screens. We evolved with nature and when we deprive ourselves of any connection to outdoor spaces, our body keeps score. That’s why I truly believe outdoor access is a human right.
As an athlete, in addition to thinking about the next thing I want to achieve, I also consider how I can use the knowledge and opportunities I have to uplift everyone around me. I transitioned from a “me” to a “we” model. Much of this knowledge has evolved from deeply developed relationships with the Women of Color in my life. My continual connection with the feminine energy within me helps me build a life around care and support.
I’m a work in progress, but love every minute of life. Through the ups and downs; I coexist between grief and gratitude.
R: Why does representation matter?
V: When I was 11, I went skiing with my family at a local hill in Connecticut. I was with my older brother, Amir, when a one-legged skier appeared out of the blue and skied up to me. He told me, “Hey, good job; keep it up!” And then he was gone. It was a lucky and auspicious sign. His encouragement, and seeing someone who looked like me at the ski area, was significant, and I kept with the sport.
Representation helps me break down the preconceived notions society has put on me and my abilities. It gives me hope that I don’t have to exist in the boxes society has created for me, including, “Disabled people can’t do this,” or “Brown folks don’t ski.” Representation helps me build the life I want.