Broken Bones and Champagne


Broken bones, apparently they happen. For the last eleven years, Alex and I have been upping the ante on our outdoor excursions. More miles, more gear, more pitches, steeper ascents, just more. This is a reasonable progression as skills improve, gear closet expands and route navigation sharpens. That’s the hope anyways. Each trip is vulnerable to a variety of mishaps and potential oh shit moments. Any mountaineer, backcountry skier or alpine climber who says otherwise is a liar. There are many avoidable scenarios with a solid risk assessment. The space between dangerous and hazardous can appear blurry in the moment, but if you’re able to make an honest evaluation of probable outcomes, then your chances of making a smart choice are higher. Nothing is guaranteed. The mountains don’t owe you a solid as a penance for your shitty nine to five or your child’s incessant whining. Humility is something I always carry in my pack.

About a quarter of the way through each trip, Alex loves to remind me of the old mountaineers saying, “mountaineerning is about enduring as much pain as possible so you can tell stories about it later.” It’s true, every person who does these things has a level of masacism within them. We all suffer from bouts of amnesia as well. There have been aches, sunburns, blisters and flu-like symptoms, but for the most part, Alex and I have come out of the woods unscathed. There have been moments where the wrong decision would have led to potentially life changing, if not life ending outcomes. Injuries are bound to happen the more we expose ourselves to risk. Of course, there are the moments when you make reckless decisions backed by poor judgement and have to surrender to whatever happens. For example, accidentally skiing off a twenty five foot rock cliff…

Last week, there was a powder acumulation of epic proportions. Nearly three feet of snow fell from the sky and onto our beloved local ski resort. Both of our schools were canceled due to lowland snow (yay for being teachers!). Powder skis were fat and waxed, Subaru was gassed and the coffee was hot; a recipe for a memorable day on the mountain. Sorry Cas, it’s a kidscare day for you, the pow is too deep and you’re not 21 so no champagne for you!

Each turn was a fluffy float fest and although our quads burned, no amount of fire could deter us. It was just too good.  About two hours from last chair, we had made multiple runs down a familiar slope that offered fun off piste and small jumps. Halfway down, Alex drove his skis towards a modest lip, at least that’s where he thought he was at. Suddenly, he launched himself off and instead of dropping the usual two feet, he kept falling…for twenty more. He landed directly on his skis, but at the last second fell backwards and braced himself with his hands. SNAP!  I was seconds behind him. “It’s broken, take my poles, I’ll see you at First Aid,” Alex said calmly and off he went. I met his scattered skis at the bottom of the hill and ran inside. There he was sitting on the end of a plastic, green bed with a few ski patrol surrounding him and his bone poking at his skin as if it was trying to escape his arm. Adreneline blocked any pain from seeping in as well as caused him to make a shit eating grin when he saw me. My face? Imagine eyes with lasers that shoot lava and sharp needles. The ski patrol medic asked Alex for his recollection of the incident. He said “in your own words, tell me what happened and we’ll start with ‘I was shredding'” and Alex signed off on the report.

Broken bones happen, especially when you make poor choices. Only Alex has to suffer the consequences and while the physical pain is inconvenient, the mental suffering is far greater. I guess I will have to shred the gnar all by myself for a few weeks. Don’t worry, I’ll take a few pictures for him. Maybe I’ll tell you the story how I broke my sacrum just six weeks ago, or maybe not…




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