Alex Cairns likes to go fast and he won’t let his body try and stop him.
Born with spina bifida, Cairns hasn’t allowed the disability to slow him down. The Squamish resident and 2010 Howe Sound Secondary School (HSSS) grad is a key member of the B.C. Para-Alpine ski team and had his best showing ever — third in the Super G — at a competition in Kimberley last month.
But it wasn’t really the racing aspect that attracted Cairns to skiing. The 21-year-old initially was intrigued by free riding some of the cliffs, steep runs and jumps at his home mountain of Whistler.
“The sport for me when I started was more doing cliffs and steep runs,” he said. “Racing is something I’ve learned and begun to dive into. Being disabled, the racing is a something that offers me a level playing field for me to get into.”
Six years ago, Cairns’ grandmother signed him up for lessons and after four years of getting used to the sit ski set-up, he joined the B.C. team.
“There was quite a learning curve,” he said. “I’ve grown up mountain biking and living the regular Squamish lifestyle so I had some doubts just being thrown into a disabled sport — it took me four years to join the B.C. team.”
It was a slow progression into the sport for Cairns. His first year he hit the hill just once, the second year three times and the following year five times. Contrast that with last year, his first on the team, where he hit the slopes 120 times and fully immersed himself with team coaches Phil Chew and Jason Fink.
Cairns is ranked as a level L4/L5 athlete and the spina bifida he possesses creates difficulties with walking and balance.
“My lesion where the spinal cord didn’t grow together is quite low on my back,” he said. “I can walk around and move but I have to waddle when I walk and I’m not as quick getting around as others.”
Despite the disability, Cairns has emerged as a strong skier and athlete. His showing in Kimberley was his best result but he also competed at races in Colorado back in December. He said his eventual goal is to make the national team and potentially represent Canada at the Paralympic Winter Games.
“The chances are slim for Sochi  because they pick athletes from the national team before provincial teams,” he said. “There’s quite a few people ahead of me. But the next one for sure, South Korea  is a possibility.”
Cairns competes in the slalom, giant slalom, downhill and Super G and said it’s hard to pick which race he likes the best.
“I thought it was slalom until Kimberley — then I got fond of Super G,” he said, laughing. “My goal would be just to make the team and race all the disciplines.”
As most skiers know, the sport is not cheap — even more so for disabled athletes. Cairns said his set-up set him back $7,000. He said the Squamish Rotary Club, the Disabled Skiers Association of B.C. and his parents were instrumental in raising money to pay for his equipment.
One of the few regrets Cairns has is he was a little late for his other dream — competing in the X Games. The extreme sports event recently cut sit skiing from its schedule, leaving Cairns to continue doing his jumps but only for his own enjoyment. He added that one of his personal highlights was learning how to back flip into an airbag a few years ago.
The next big race for Cairns will be the nationals at Sun Peaks later this year. For more information on the team, visit www.disabledskiingbc.com.