Interview: Nora Beck’s Back Up Plan

New hardware and a new project in the works.


With some new hardware, a new project in the bag (currently being edited), and a season-ending back injury all in the span of a few months, it suffices to say Nora Beck had a busy winter.  What would normally be the offseason has now been rebranded as rehab season, and Nora has been taking it a day at a time while we all wait for her highly anticipated street footage to drop later this Fall. Focusing on the positives, we caught up with her while she caught some R & R in her apartment up in Oregon. – Mark Clavin

If you would like to donate to Nora’s GoFundme, click here.

What you up to right now?
Lying on my couch, drinking coffee in Bend. It gives me acid reflux not being upright, but if I’m lying down I don’t have to wear my brace and that thing gets annoying.

How long is your predicted road to recovery?  
Not sure! The doctors said it’d take a year or two for the bones to grow over the new metal vertebrae they put in, but that’s to get to 100%. I think I’ll get to be on a snowboard this winter but probably low impact stuff. I guess there’s no blueprint for this so it’s all on a case-by-case basis—and right now I’m like the best case scenario.

What was the injury, for the people reading this?
I broke my T12 vertebrae. It was a burst fracture though, which basically means it exploded and they had to take out all the pieces.

And that was from your fall up at Mt. Hood? 
Ha, no, I ate too much and my back exploded.

You ate too much and broke your back.
Doctor’s like, “Yeah, you just got too big and it popped.”

In the US they probably have to say that a lot.
Yeah, we’re doomed. But anyway….

Is it weird seeing a clip of yourself breaking your back, let alone posting it?
Not really. It feels like just watching a normal slam clip. It makes me feel a little stupid ‘cause it doesn’t look how I thought it was going to look, haha!

How did you actually break it?
At IT’S TITS!, there was a breast cancer ribbon [made out of snow] and I was trying to gap into the hole up top from the bottom of the ribbon. But there wasn’t enough landing on the top side where I shot out, so I ended up just flying out to the flat, overrotated, and hit the ground right on my butt. As soon as I hit the ground, my legs went numb. It didn’t hurt right away, but I knew it should be hurting. I tried to get out of the way, but I couldn’t move my legs at all. I called for help and they eventually got me on a backboard and sledded me over to the lodge where an ambulance pulled up like ten minutes after—but it felt like an hour, especially with ski patrol asking me a bunch of questions. I was so pissed.

I had no idea you couldn’t feel your legs. That is so intense. I couldn’t imagine.
For the first few hours I couldn’t move them, but I could faintly feel them when ski patrol touched my feet asking, “Which foot am I touching?” I was convinced I was paralyzed. It felt so final. I was sitting there talking to myself internally going, “Wow, sick. That was the last thing you’re ever going do on two legs.” It was so scary. Eventually though, my left leg started to hurt and the movement came back a little. I can’t tell you how grateful I was. It gave me such an appreciation for people whose legs didn’t come back, who are in wheelchairs forever because that shit is no joke. I was convinced my life was over and I just can’t believe people go through that and worse and still stay positive because I was ready to throw in the towel. I had to mentally walk myself backwards and go “Okay, you’re not a doctor. You don’t know anything until you’re in the hospital.”

Side note, I just went to put my coffee on the table without looking. I missed and dropped it on the floor.

Nora at Heavy Metal. p: Clavin

Oh no! Ha. Where you at?
I’m in my apartment in Bend hiding from the heat today. It’s supposed to be 96 and I don’t do well in the heat, ha.

But back to the injury. I honestly had my eyes closed from almost the entire time from when I hit the ground and when I got in the ambulance. It was easier to control the panic that way. Madison Blackley went up and got my bag for me, and I remember hearing Mary Walsh talking me through everything on hill. Once in ski patrol, Taylor Elliott was there, I know, because they’d called my dad at some point and he was on the phone freaking out. I snapped a little bit at her like, “I’m not having that conversation right now!” which I feel bad about, ha! And bless her heart, Marissa Krawczak was there start-to-finish. From on hill, she followed me in the ambulance all the way down to Portland and stayed with me in the ER for a while.

Do you have some help up in Bend right now at your apartment?
I’m actually pretty independent! My mom was here the first week I got home and helped me stock up on groceries because I can’t lift them up the stairs, and Marissa’s gotten me to and from doctor’s appointments, but other than that I’ve been kind of on my own. I can do most things on my own again, besides lifting over ten pounds or standing in the shower. They told me it’s not worth the risk, so I got a special chair to sit down and chill in. It’s actually pretty nice sitting down in the shower.

Heard you are sitting on some nice footage from the year prior to the injury.
Yeah, somehow through the chaos I managed to put together some good stuff! Maria Thomsen, Ylfa Rúnarsdóttir, and I set out to make a video and it came together so well. I can’t wait for everyone to see it. I owe a big thank you to Burton and Pat Dodge, Zach Nigro, and Chelsea Wadell for all the support this year. And through all of this back stuff, they’ve shown nothing but love and sent flowers, and even called me in the hospital to say it doesn’t matter if this recovery takes a year, two, three—they don’t care and they’ll have my back through all of it. I was in a bad mental spot in the hospital and it really gave me a surge of hope after those phone calls.

What was it like boarding with Maria and Ylfa all winter?
They’re the best. They are both insanely good snowboarders, but also they’re two of the most patient humans I’ve ever met. I feel like I learned a lot from them just watching how they approach their emotions and scenarios in the real world. And they are such hard workers. So many days we would be out the door by 8 am and then stay out shoveling until midnight or 1AM and they never complained. Ylfa would joke that we’re machines—no rest, just give us food and coffee and we’ll keep going.

Where did you all go to film over the course of the winter?
Quebec, Iceland, Finland and a few more spots. It was the year of Finland, for sure. I feel like everyone went this year. We linked up with Grace Warner in Finland and Maggie Leon came out to Quebec! When we were in Iceland everyone started to get COVID, which ended our filming, but I never tested positive, so I had a weekend of sitting around. I went to link up with Tess at Absolut Park for a few days and then those few days turned into a week for the Spring Battle event, which was so fun. Austria is a beautiful country and everyone there treated us so nicely, I didn’t want to leave, ha. It’s crazy though—that stuff seems like a lifetime ago. It’s crazy flying across the world and stumbling across a spot that’s still set up from the last crew that was there; it feels like you’re a historian finding relics or something, ha.

Like Indiana Jones–or Nora Jones. She’s already famous, maybe Oregon Jones? Or Virginia Jones.
Ooh, Virginia Jones. Like if you order Indiana Jones off wish.com.

Nora Jones. p: Provided by Nora Beck

What will you be up to this summer?
We had hot girl summer, but this is back brace summer. A lot of nothing, to be honest! Trying to read books but the flashlight of doom (my phone) always sucks me back in. It’s really hot here and my brace is like a thick heated blanket. In the sun it gets so hot, so it’s hard to be outside. I have some exercises I do every day and I’ve been trying to paint a little. I’m not the artistic type, but it’s fun to just make lines appear on a canvas.

How is rehab going?
It kicked my ass a bit in the beginning. I had only gotten up once before I started and walked with the parallel bars next to me, so it was zero to a hundred real quick. After the first three days or so, they said I didn’t need any more occupational therapy—which is things like helping get dressed, help in the shower, learning how to safely use the kitchen again—so that hour turned into more PT and it was basically three hours of exercising every day. Mini squats, going up and down stairs, riding a stationary bike, lunges, etc. I was so tired at the end of it. Originally I was supposed to be there for around three weeks and I only stayed for one week because my legs came back so quickly. My energy is mostly just low, though. I’m zonked all day and then wide awake at night sometimes. The body healing definitely zaps you a bit, but special shoutout to RIO (Rehabilitation Institute of Oregon). They work magic there and were so helpful and patient.

Did you talk to anyone about coming back from injury? I know Isabella Gomez was sharing her back injury online a bit earlier in the year.  
Ugh, I know, It’s the trend this year. I talked to Izzy a lot, and still talk with her. She was a huge help in the beginning before I’d stood up or moved at all. I was getting very existential, wondering whether I’d ever snowboard again or film a part and she told me when she was there, she threw all of that out the window and made walking her only goal. The rest, if it came, would be extra. And that really helped, like boiling it down to just the basics, focusing on walking out of the hospital and the rest is a blessing. 

I haven’t been thinking much about the long road. Going too big picture stresses me out so I’m trying to just focus on the day by day. Getting through the day, doing my little exercises and then doing it all again the next day. 

It’s helpful with not using too, I don’t have to think about being clean for the rest of my life, just like I don’t have to worry about getting back to 100% health. I just gotta get through today and tomorrow we’ll see. 

Absolutely, you recently went public about battling addiction and going to rehab, as well. Did you learn anything while getting clean that is helping on your journey with this new hurdle?
I was kind of a shit show this year and I want to thank Maria, Ylfa, and Dave Walcer for putting up with me this winter. As soon as I got back from our last film trip, my friend Riley [Elliott] made me check into rehab in Utah and I spent all of April down there. It’s been a rough road since then but hey, spiritual progress not spiritual perfection. As for what I learned in rehab, being patient with myself and only focusing on what I can control is huge. I can’t fix my back or change anything in the past, but I can control how I act on it and what I do moving forward. And if anyone out there is struggling with addiction and is tired of doing it all on your own, please ask for help. You don’t have to do it on your own. It’s scary, and you’re convinced everyone will think less of you, but you’ll be met with so much love. People care. You don’t have to do it alone.

Riley told me once you ask for help it’s amazing how many people you’ve hardly interacted with will come out of the woodwork to say, “Hey, we got you.” I didn’t believe her until I did it, and it’s truly amazing the love you’ll be met with.

That is great to hear. Most people have something going on, the topics could be different, but plenty have dealt with hurdles sometime in their life, and nobody should do it alone. 
I’m just trying my best out here, ha. It’s either keep trying or roll over and die, and I’m not trying to do that.

Maria and Nora. p: Nora Beck

Anything else you want to talk about?
I want to thank Pat, Zach, and Chelsea at Burton for all the love; Jordan and Bryanna at Tactics for all their support; Kevin at Tokyo Starfish for their love; and Desiree, Marissa, Riley, Antonia, and my friend, Parker, for visiting me in the hospital. Riley, again, for staying up with me until 2am, going to different hospitals to try to find somewhere that would take me before I could go to rehab. Ylfa, Maria, and Dave for putting up with all my shit, and my mom for being my beacon through the stress I’ve put her through. And everyone else that had a hand in my past few months, I love you and thank you. ❤️

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