Ennis has turned the concept of “disabled athlete” on its head, proving how capable she still is, whether it’s on one leg or two. She competed in boardercross and banked slalom as a Paralympic snowboarder and then ventured into mountaineering, summitting Mt. Kilimanjaro (at 19,341-feet it’s the highest point in Africa) to support the non-profit The Waterboys. Then she successfully climbed Carstensz, the highest point in Oceania, for The Heroes Project; tackled Elbrus, the highest point in Europe to support GLAM4GOOD; and then conquered Aconcagua, the highest point in South America at 22,841 feet. She has summited Cotopaxi, the highest peak in Ecuador; got turned around by weather while on Denali in support of Building Homes for Heroes but later summited it in 2021; and made it to the South Summit of Everest. In 2022, she reached the summit of Mount Vinson, the highest peak in Antarctica.
What people might not know about Ennis: she’s completed three Master’s degrees (Human Behavior, Business Administration and Public Administration) and is currently working to complete her doctorate in Education. She is an ambassador for the nonprofit Building Homes for Heroes and sits on the board of Merging Vets and Players. She worked as a stuntwoman on Patriots Day starring Mark Wahlberg in 2016. She’s a motivational speaker and appeared on stage at Madison Square Garden in 2015, opening for Bruce Springsteen at the Bob Woodruff Foundation's 9th Annual Stand Up for Heroes event. She’s an entrepreneur and businesswoman who opened her first business, the Chapter One Hair and Body Lab, in Oceanside, California in 2017, followed by her second business, Citizen Crossfit. She earned her license as a real estate advisor and is based at Engel & Volkers in Aspen, Colorado.
Ennis joined the Marines when she was only 17 years old and enlisted as an aircraft mechanic, inspired by her parents who were both Marines. “I idolized what they were doing. I have always wanted to serve and to help others who can’t protect themselves,” she says. “I wanted to give my parents a reason to be proud of me like I was of them.” She chose to become an aircraft mechanic because she didn’t know the first thing about airplanes. “I went to the recruiter’s office and told them I wanted it to be hard. I wanted to be challenged physically and intellectually,” she says.
After everything she’s been through, that hasn’t changed. If anything, it’s inspired her to push even harder, not only for herself but to inspire others. “I’m extremely proud of everything I did in the military and I’d do it all over again if I could,” she told Cosmopolitan. “That’s what I signed up for. I would lay my life down for the men and women that stood alongside me. At the end of the day, I’m thankful it happened to me and no one else.”
After returning home from Everest in the summer of 2019, Kirstie was the ESPY’s Pat Tillman Award recipient. In 2020, she was the recipient of the “Higher Ground” award at the Salute to Greatness Awards, held by the Martin Luther King Jr. family. She was also inducted into the 2020 International Sports Hall of Fame.
Kirstie is the founder of the Kirstie Ennis Foundation, which provides education, opportunity, and healing in the outdoors through recreational therapy clinics and expeditions, and partners with organizations with similar missions of improving the quality of life of individuals through mobility.