This past June I had the chance to hang out in Aspen with Mike Marolt—cpa, dad, high altitude skier, and filmmaker. On that Saturday night in the bar of the Hotel Jerome, Marolt couldn't stop talking about Jimmie Heuga, the subject of his newest film. An Olympic gold medalist diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Heuga changed the way people lived with the disease. At a time when the conventional thinking was to rest, Heuga engaged in vigorous activity. With the trailer now out, I thought it time to ask Marolt a few more questions about Heuga's story.
1) How did you learn about Jimmie Heuga?
I met Jimmie when I was 8 years old and when I got out of college and established my career as a cpa, he challenged me to pick a fight. Any fight would be great and that everyone needs to pick one, but he asked me to pick MS. I was on the Heuga Center for MS board for years (Now it’s the Can Do MS Center. Jimmie is still the founder).
2) Why is telling his story important?
It’s important because MS is such a powerful but unknown disease with no cure. It effects millions of people. The only option is to create quality of life by teaching people to cope. When Jimmie first knew he had MS, the protocol was to live a sedentary and cerebral life. For people with MS that had any physical aspects to their life, this was as bad as a death sentence. He completely changed this, and spent his life really increasing the quality of life for people with MS. It’s a terrible and extremely painful and frustrating affliction, but through mental and physical training, people with MS have a much better quality of life. And through the physical aspect of what Jimmie started, it has helped with the progress to find a cure in a large way.
3) This is a much different story than your film Skiing Everest. Why did you choose to do it?
I chose this film because I made a promise to Jimmie that I would do it. Years ago, I attended one of the Can Do programs for people with MS and the discussion was what kind of throw rugs you should have in your house for various stages of MS. I looked around the room and realized that some people with MS can’t even negotiate the rugs in their homes. This is how serious this all is. By supporting organizations like the Can Do MS, it helps people with MS learn to cope with all aspects of the disease. Jimmie Heuga coined the phrase Can Do, and was a champion of accepting his condition, and as he said, it really doesn’t matter what cards you are dealt. What is important is how you deal with the cards you are given. His work creating the Can Do MS center really helps people deal and cope. But also, it is an inspirational message that anyone can use to help cope with life in general. Jimmie used to tell me that life throws curve balls at everyone. If you accept and learn to deal with whatever hurdles you have in life, that is what makes life worth living. Also, any legacy dissolves over time, as has Jimmies, so one of my goals was to reinvent his (Jimmie’s). His life is a powerful example for people with MS and all conditions that life is special and a gift no matter what. I am also a passionate skier as was Jimmie. I produce ski films. This one just happens to be very meaningful.
4) Where can people see this film?
The film will be completed in the next couple months and is made for digital and television. I will take the film to market, and 100% of all proceeds go back to the Heuga Endowment fund to fight MS. It will also be used as an inspirational film for the Can Do MS programs. The tool aspect for the programs is huge. Jimmie is with us in spirit and the film will bring him to life.
5) What's next?
I am off to Nepal to attempt to climb and ski Manaslu for a final segment to my next adventure/travel/ski film. Then back for kid wrangling and skiing for the winter with my two girls, and status quo in life in Aspen as a CPA/film producer/non-climber. Ha.
Read more about Mike Marolt and his brother Steve in Nick Paumgarten's feature Twin Freaks, available in our September issue.