Vasu Sojitra and Patrick Halgren are professional skiers. They are also unique companions. Sojitra lost her right leg to a blood infection when she was nine months old, and Halgren lost her left leg when she was 23 in a motorcycle accident. In 2013, the two met in Breckenridge, Colorado, and realized their feet were the same size. they have only been friends ever since.
Professional comedian Josh Sundquist first used the term “sole mate” when he found another amputee, Stephen, who wore the same shoe size and didn’t have the opposite leg. In 2011, Sundquist made a Youtube video about their meeting and their decision to start swapping shoes. There are a number of organizations that allow amputees to swap individual boots, but finding a unique mate is a much rarer occurrence, especially for two distinguished skiers.
Since 2013, Sojitra and Halgren have shared 18 pairs of various kicks, including boots, sandals, cleats and automatic shoes for cycling. As Sundquist puts it in his viral video, “What are the chances of someone missing the other leg, wearing the same shoe size, and most importantly, liking the same type of shoe as me?”
Despite different career paths, goals and passions, skiing eventually brought the two together. Sojitra lost his leg sooner than he remembers, and while growing up in Connecticut and India, his brother helped push him into skiing and skateboarding, which eventually led to several firsts. in the adaptive athlete community: Sojitra became the first adaptive athlete to complete the Rut, a 17-mile trail race in Montana with 7,800 feet of elevation gain; go up the Grand Teton, in Wyoming; summit and descent Denali, Alaska on skis; and land the first 720, all without the use of a prosthesis. In October, The North Face, which sponsors Sojitra, published Risea film that explains what it’s like to be a minority in the mountains and aims to reshape the conversation about disability in the outdoors.
Sojitra now lives in Bozeman, Montana, and uses her platform to highlight what adaptive athletes can do. Through ski films, diversity panels and cross-brand partnerships, he is committed to deepening the conversation around the inclusion of marginalized and adaptive athletes in the industry. Recently, he joined professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones and Teton Gravity Research to be part of the first adaptive descent of Skillet Glacier on Wyoming’s Mount Moran. And he continues to focus on big mountain skiing and pushing the boundaries of suitable athletes.
Halgren took a more indirect approach to professional skiing. Before he could walk until his teenage years in Tolland, Connecticut, he was an avid skier. But the sport quickly became too expensive for his family, and in his twenties he found his attention had wandered in other directions.
On June 15, 2013, Halgren woke up early to go to his job as a sports radio commentator, but his motorcycle wouldn’t start. It took a downhill push to give the bike enough momentum to shift into second gear, when he jumped on it. Already late for work, Halgren took off and accelerated faster and faster, veering dangerously close to the edge of the road at every turn. Then he felt control of the bike slip away from him. In a split-second decision, he veered into a farmer’s field. The bike’s front wheel hit a rock and Halgren slammed into a telephone pole. A month later, he woke up in a hospital bed with most of his left leg missing. It was a long road to recovery, but the opportunity to ski again soon presented itself.
Halgren and Sojitra met in Breckenridge, Colorado the same year at the Hartford Ski Spectacular. The event was created to encourage adaptive skiers aged 24 and under to participate in a week-long, all-inclusive running clinic. “What a pleasure it was to meet [Sojitra]says Halgren. “I had been watching his ski edits and videos for a long time at that point and was a bit in awe. It was a very surreal moment.
Their relationship took off. They realized they were the same shoe size, started matching and even sent shoes back and forth, just like Sundquist and his friend Stephen.
Halgren, who is now based in Colorado, frequently travels to Europe for several races on the World Para-Alpine Skiing Tour. He is aiming to make the podium at the Paralympic Games in Beijing in March. For years, Halgren worked at ski resorts in New Zealand and Vermont to get through two winters a year and spend as much time as possible skiing.
The couple share a love of skiing, the outdoors and footwear. But they also find the prostheses foreign and uncomfortable and opt for crutches. One shoe is enough.
Although they first met on a ski boot, Halgren finds Sojitra’s boots too small for his preference. However, they have since shared just about every other type of shoe. Even though Halgren is chasing medals and Sojitra is chasing first runs, the two best adaptive athletes will always be linked as unique partners.