I woke up At 6 AM on Sunday morning, groggily cursing daylight saving time for having robbed me of an hour’s sleep – as if I was innocently staying up till 1 AM the night before and it had snuck up on me. Like a ninja. But as my two caregivers – one disturbingly chipper and the other equally as grumpy as me – stuffed my lifeless limbs into layer after layer of winter clothing, I felt my mood begin to shift, for the early morning came with good purpose. Round two on the slopes awaited.
The nerves from the week prior were gone. Having cleared so many emotional hurdles on the last trip, I was looking forward getting my bearings on the bi-ski without the stress and pressure of such a momentous undertaking clouding my mind. We arrived early and met with the two volunteers who would be helping me out for the day. After a quick transfer and a couple strap of adjustments, we were out the door and ready to go.
The weather forecasts had called for 100% chance of rain all week, scaring everyone but the diehards away from what was sure to be a miserable day on the mountain, but there was little more than a light drizzle misting our goggles as we loaded onto the first chairlift. Even the sun managed to make an appearance, peaking through the clouds occasionally as if to bless the day. Feeling rather adventurous, our group decided to forgo the bunny hills for the longer intermediate runs and had relatively free reign of the hillside thanks to the low turnout.
We took several trips up and down the mountain, testing various tiedown positions to try to optimize my ability to execute sweeping turns. With each adjustment, I could feel myself getting more and more control and, in turn, having more fun. All in all, it had the makings of another successful, albeit uneventful trip. That’s when Life – as it so often does with me – decided to make things just a little more… Well, interesting.
It was our second-to-last run down the mountain when my spotter caught an edge that popped off one of his skis on the steepest part of the hill. For those of you who aren’t the Alpine skiing type, that usually spells trouble. Things becomes exponentially worse, however, when you are tethered to a couple hundred pounds of paralyzed human and outdoor equipment, and you go from being their rather graceful braking system to nothing more than a helpless tag along as they careen down the mountain; much like a tin can dangling behind a couple’s car on their wedding day.
I wasn’t sure what happened. I felt something break loose and, before the words “Oh, sh!t” had time to make it from my brain to my mouth, the ski banked hard to the left, digging one of the outriggers into the ground and smacking my helmeted skull on the ice. The sharp turn wasn’t enough to overcome my speed, and my momentum carried me straight down the hill in a series of head-ski-head-ski somersaults that are way better understood with this video than with any words I might be able to express. Check it out:
Unfortunately, the camera broke free from the ski between the second and third face plant, but still managed to capture my arms flailing in the wind like one of those inflatable sky dancers you see outside car dealerships during big sales. When the chaos finally ended, we were a tangled mess of vinyl straps and scattered ski equipment; the very definition of a mountain-side yard sale.
We righted the ski, dusted me off and pulled my goggles off my mouth and back into their proper position. Amazingly, we both escaped without any major injuries other than slightly bruised egos. I could tell my poor spotter wasn’t taking the fact that we crashed too well, shouldering way more than his share of the blame for what happened. What the poor guy didn’t understand was that he was just collateral damage; sucked into the zany vortex that surrounds my life, where if something weird can happen, it most certainly will.
What I couldn’t put into words at the time was how much of a gift the crash actually was. It was good for me, because it shoved me even further outside that comfort bubble I’ve been stuck in for the last decade and showed me that I’m not nearly as fragile as I thought. It served as a reminder that Life is still going to show up no matter how safe you think you are playing it, and when it goes sideways you’ll at least have a pretty cool story.
Later that night, I was asked how I felt after my second trip to the mountains, and I could only give them one word. “Alive.” Alive in the sense that, yes, I made it home intact, but also reinvigorated by the adrenaline rush that comes from going right up to, and then over the edge of your fear and realizing you’re a lot stronger than you gave yourself credit for. I can only say a truly heartfelt thanks to my co-victim, who shall go unnamed because I know he’s beating himself up far more than he should be, for giving my family and me a new crash story to replace the last one. Despite the brief scare, this one had a much happier ending, one we’ll be laughing about for at least the next decade to come.
Here’s photo evidence of the whole crew, all smiles after an entertaining tumble.
AND… We still have next weekend. I’m sure it will be… Well, interesting. That’s just how I roll.