Ripchair coming to the County, a story of inspiration

There are times when destiny sticks its big finger in your chest and knocks you down or leaves you gasping for breath. March 1, 2007 in Colorado while skiing destiny gave Mike Chasse what seemed like a crushing blow that not only left him breathless and face down in the snow, but paralyzed.

At a time when he seemed to have the world by the tail, he was broken and left without control of his life for the first time.

The Class of 2000 Presque Isle High School graduate had what he described as his dream job at age 25, ski lift designer for Austrian-Swiss company Dopplemayr Garaventa Group manufacturers of chair lifts, cable cars, gondolas, surface tows for ski areas and amusement parks. He was based out of the company’s Salt Lake City USA headquarters.

“Designing ski lifts/working for Dopplemayr was my absolute dream job,” said Chasse. “I only worked with them for a year before having my injury, but it was the most incredible job/experience I could’ve imagined.”

He was scheduled to visit company headquarters only a few weeks after his accident, a trip that never occurred.

Chasse describes the last 11 years

“Eleven years ago today… wow it’s been that long”, reflected Chasse. “I was working as a ski lift engineer in Salt Lake City. One day I was living the high life, skiing 100 days a year, helping build some incredible ski lifts in some of the most beautiful areas of the world and then snap I was fighting for my life face down in the snow as my parents climbed up the hill on their second day of vacation.”

“I say that in peace and reflection. 10 years ago on my one year anniversary this day left me incapacitated. I was sad, it was more than I could deal with, and I dropped into a depression. Last year I just pretended that this day didn’t exist, that it was no different from any other day… I was strong, I was happy, but pretending was no different than a lie.”

“When I broke my neck, I thought my life as I knew it was over, and I guess that’s true, but that’s also when my life as I now know it started. It’s when some of my very closest bonds and friendships became and it’s when I realized that life is more than just skiing up or down a hill or the next adventure, but that it’s about the journey and the relationships and the lives you change and touch along the way and how your life is changed and touched along the way.”

Change includes Ripchair

Meanwhile on an almost parallel time-track were identical twin brothers, Geoff and Michael Howe from Waterboro, Maine whose innate curiosity about all things mechanical, musical, and off-road capable formed a small company called Howe & Howe. The Class of 1992 graduates of Kents Hill School, in Readfield, went on to Bowdoin College and graduated in 1996.

One of their first projects in 2001 was called Ripsaw, a vehicle with tank like treads used for off-road adventures. The brothers saw the military as a possible customer of vehicles capable of doing a variety of off-road tasks.

Their Ripsaw MS1 (military version of Ripsaw) was made famous when named Popular Science Magazine’s “Invention of the Year” in 2009.

The Fiddlehead Focus / St. John Valley Times is pleased to feature content from our sister company, Bangor Daily News. To read the rest of “Ripchair coming to the County, a story of inspiration,” an article by contributing writer Tom Hale, please follow this link to the BDN online.

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