Digging Below ‘6 Below’

6 below

In 2004, Eric LeMarque got lost while snowboarding and spent eight days in the snow and bitter cold. His story was recounted in the film 6 Below: Miracle on the Mountain, starring Josh Hartnett (pictured above) as LeMarque. Because 6 Below received a very limited release, Plugged In didn’t review it. But I saw it all the same. I like survival stories, and I found LeMarque’s unique story of survival to be fascinating. So, since the DVD came out this week (Nov. 14), I thought my interview with Eric would take the place of a more formal review. Incidentally, if PI were reviewing this film, we would have given it a 4 out of 5 for family-friendliness, noting a handful of profanities and some male nudity (no genitalia shown).

Bob Waliszewski: For our readers who have not seen the film 6 Below, or may be  unfamiliar with your story, describe what happened to you.

Eric LeMarque: I’m a former professional Olympic hockey player who decided to leave that career to become a professional snowboarder. … I found myself losing my way and becoming addicted to alcohol which led into marijuana which led into cocaine which led into a methamphetamine addiction which lasted for about eight months. I was addicted to two different powders chasing the one that fell from the sky. Being overconfident, forgetting my two-way radio and torch lighter that morning, disobeying ski patrol and thinking that I can outrun a storm on my last run, I became trapped. I would go on to survive eight days in those conditions. [I was] stalked by animals, fell into a river and under the ice. In addition, I peeled the skin from my feet which I would later eat and I would end up drinking my urine.

What I realized was that my will to live was tremendously strong. [On] the fifth night … I was on my knees and crying out to God and I ended up getting rescued three days later. The biggest struggle of my life would then begin. [I’m now known] as one of People magazine’s top survivors in the world—coming off one of the most dangerous and destructive drugs and going on to lose my legs to frostbite. That recovery process led me to the Lord.

Waliszewski: How could you get lost on a mountain when you have to know where the chairlift must be?

LeMarque: When I came down it was into a thick layer of fog. It was like I stepped into another dimension. I completely lost visibility and I was going down through a very steep section of the mountain. I ended up just getting stuck and trapped. In walking to the left I was in a bowl that I didn’t know about and walking in a circle.

Waliszewski: You mentioned that you drank your own urine. That wasn’t in the movie, thank goodness. There was a big statement by one of the characters in the film that went, “Don’t eat snow. It leads to dehydration.” Tell me about the dehydration part and how that worked out for you.

LeMarque: It’s like God had my back.  I had given my heart to Christ to get my girlfriend’s evangelical mother off my back in 1995. [But I went on to live] a full-blown life of sin. I had read in a survival book the night before I got trapped that snow can dehydrate you. It also absorbs water. … As much as I wanted to take whatever water was in the snow I was remembering that and thankfully I was guided supernaturally to keep away from that. It was when I upended the bag of meth that I was able to then use that Ziploc bag and then melt the snow every few hours so that I would have a couple ounces of water.

Waliszewski: It seems to me that 6 Below is just the beginning of your story. Your story has a spiritual angle to it. Tell me about that.

LeMarque: I had pushed the envelope my whole life and I’ve always done things in such extremes. I pushed right on through and reduced myself to four walls in a hospital room and a flat sheet where my feet [were amputated]. My feet were one of my biggest assets. I had cried out to God [on the mountain], and I had met a sure death on the mountain. So, after seeing into that real spiritual realm when I was desperate and at my bottom I pushed into God. I can share with you that He not only showed up, He showed off every single day in one of the most rewarding relationships of my life.

Waliszewski: Eric, what do you hope will be accomplished by those who see the film?

LeMarque: My first hope for them is that they see that taking a good stand in your life can help you turn your life around. Another thing would be knowing that I lost my legs, and with the right attitude, determination and faith that you can overcome any obstacle in your life. I’m looking forward to people really getting the full story in reading the book that is available on Amazon.

Waliszewski: How is God using you these days, Eric? What’s happening?

LeMarque: You know, it’s every level that I press in. I just crave more spiritual milk. It’s almost a thirst that’s unquenchable and I enjoy [taking] the relationship deeper and deeper. Anybody that I meet, whether they’re  believers or atheists, they really resonate with me–they see what I’ve been able to overcome and they gain inspiration with that. People ask me, “How did you really get through it?” and that gives me an opportunity to open up and share that there was a time when I felt God was knocking on the door, but there was no handle on His side. I had to open it up and get my heart right and let Him in. Let me tell you that’s the foundation that is giving me the strength to press forward and go in an onward and upward direction always.

Who wrote this?

Bob Waliszewski is the director of the Plugged In department. His syndicated "Plugged In Movie Review" feature is heard by approximately 9 million people each week on more than 1,500 radio stations and other outlets and has been nominated for a National Religious Broadcaster's award. Waliszewski is the author of the book Plugged-In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids With Love, Not War. You can follow him on Twitter @PluggedInBob.

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