Moments before Jay Reece was about to hit the slopes at Whakapapa he saw a helicopter and overheard a search and rescue member say, "Oh someone's probably broken their neck."
Reece, a snowboarder, thought, "Yeah, that was me a year ago. It was freaky."
On August 18 last year, Reece and his friend Mitchell Avison went up to Whakapapa to traverse the Pinnacles.
Reece had a fantastic first run and decided to have another go. He traversed a little higher but on the second run slid on ice and spun out of control.
He ended up halfway down the Pinnacles in an icy hole, upside down and anchored only by his snowboard.
Reece,46, broke his neck in three places and nearly died.
"As I was falling, I spun head first and blanked out. I was trapped and had nothing to grip on to. Blood was running from my head. I yelled for help and started punching ice but I was jammed in."
Reece needed surgery to repair and fuse his shattered neck. He has spent the past year learning to walk, swim, and surf.
In three weeks' time, Reece will be a father for the first time.
His partner, Elysia Gibb, 45, has a 7-year-old daughter, Kaya, who is looking forward to being a big sister.
"It has been a miraculous year, I am 46, so having a baby is a beautiful coincidence. We haven't picked out a name but we've been told, the name will come to you when you see it first. We just want a happy and healthy baby. "
Last weekend Reece felt apprehensive as he approached the Valley T-Bar but he was determined to "squash out the demons" that have plagued him.
"It felt like no time had passed. But as I got to the top, I thought, 'Can I do this? Am I up for it?' I didn't know whether it was going to be emotional or whether I was going to be able to block out the last time I was there where I had to be rescued. As soon as I took off and started snowboarding it was like, 'I'm back', it felt really good."
Reece also thought of his grandfather, Paul LeLong, who broke his neck in a car crash and died 15 years ago.
"I thought about Grandad and felt thankful that he had me, just like on the day of my accident. Like I wasn't going to die, he was there with me and had my back."
The cabinetmaker, who lives in Pāpāmoa, recalls being in "horrendous pain" after he had broken his neck.
When surgeons told the adrenalin junkie he might not be able to walk again, he broke down. But after a year of rehabilitation and support from family and friends, he's back on his feet.
"I had a fantastic physio, who is a great surfer too, so he knew what I needed to achieve.
It's been baby steps, getting back into the water was the goal so we did a lot of work in the pool. I couldn't swim at the start because of the pain so I floated. I worked on holding my breath underwater and meditating. I went from two minutes to nearly five, which was my goal. Eventually, I got out of the pool and went to the gym to get my strength up. After six months I had my first surf with my physio, which was cool. "
Reece is especially thankful for Elysia's love and support. She is a competitive and competent snowboarder who has had her share of mishaps too.
"At 45, she is fit and active. She's also had some pretty bad accidents so she knows what it's like and knows the draw of the snow is huge. She wanted to ski but she was far too pregnant.
"Our baby will be a snow baby. It's so exciting to be a dad. I feel it's meant to be, maybe that's why I was meant to make it."