Ravi Drugan competes at the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics.
The first time Ravi Drugan tried Para alpine skiing he was three years removed from a train accident that severed both his legs above the knees.
Oregon Adaptive Sports ran adaptive ski lessons at the Hoodoo Ski Area, so Ravi’s parents, Daniel Drugan and Keli Ann Schunk, signed him up. From the deal he received a lift pass, equipment and a half day of instruction.
Drugan did a couple of bunny runs before the lesson came to an end. OAS then allowed Ravi and his father, an experienced skier, to continue skiing on their own for the remainder of the afternoon.
Daniel took the teenager to a black diamond run through some trees.
That’s when things kicked into high gear for Drugan, who was born in Florida but has lived in Oregon since he was a toddler.
“(We) had no concern for what color the run was or anything,” Drugan recalled. “It was super fun. After that, Oregon Adaptive Sports told me I could come ski any day I wanted and use their equipment.”
Fourteen years after that introduction, Drugan will be taking the next step in his skiing when he makes his Paralympic Winter Games debut in March in Beijing.
That initial experience on the slopes remains a testament to Drugan’s approach to life. He exudes a confidence and free spirit that belies any challenge he’s ever faced, including being hit by a train.
Three days before his 15th birthday, Drugan was on his way to a poetry competition for his English class. What happened next is still unclear in his memory, and an investigation remains ongoing. Drugan was found on the tracks unconscious and having lost a lot of blood. His jacket and money from his wallet were missing. Authorities speculate he had been beaten unconscious and left for dead on the tracks before the train arrived.
Once he recovered, Drugan began looking for an outlet to satisfy his competitive drive. He discovered autocross racing through the Emerald Empire Sports Car Club. While that helped him pass the time during the summer, it didn’t fill the gaps in the winter. That’s when he and his parents contacted OAS.
“I had known about Oregon Adaptive Sports and had heard about them and even had seen a sit skier before,” Drugan explained. “My dad was like, ‘We’ve got to get you on the mountain somehow.’ So my mom contacted them. They gave me the freedom and the opportunity to become the skier I am.”
Drugan had grown up an avid skateboarder growing up and had always dreamed of competing in the X Games. Early in his Para skiing career, he participated in several alpine races but preferred a more freestyle approach. When he found out about the mono skicross event at the Winter X Games, he decided to give up alpine racing.
Drugan’s decision paid off when he captured a bronze medal at the 2015 Winter X Games. But the event was cut from future Games shortly thereafter, which left Drugan with few options to compete.
“I just freeskied at Mt. Bachelor mostly and did some small freestyle ski events there,” he said. “I had a blast, but was missing challenging myself. I always said I wanted to be the best skier I can be, and part of that to me is racing against the best guys in the world.”
Drugan went back to Para alpine training in Park City, Utah, and qualified for the U.S. team. During the 2021 season, he took bronze in slalom at the Leogang world cup competition. At this year’s Para Snow Sports World Championships in Lillehammer, Norway, the 32-year-old finished eighth in downhill and 14th in giant slalom, and shortly thereafter was named to the U.S. Paralympic Team.
The mental preparation for speed races differs from technical racing. Drugan has learned to adjust to the strategy of both, but especially enjoys slalom — the most technical race — since it resembles the free style he prefers.
“Slalom is like trying to nail a nice tight tree line or a nice hard mogul line and stay in the line you see,” Drugan explained. “(It’s) the ability to not just do it once but to do that run again. If I was out freeskiing and slayed a line really good, I’d probably go right back up and do it again and try to do it better.”
Drugan loves working on old cars, another interest he and Daniel enjoy together. But the thrill of the outdoors is always beckoning for some new adventure.
“Every time you go around the corner or another tree, there’s a new view, a new rock or mountain you haven’t seen,” he said. “It’s about exploration. Living in Oregon, there’s so much to explore right at my back door that it’s endless possibilities out there.”