Monday, March 26, 2012

Whitefish Montana - Post 2

The group of us had a great day on the slopes.  Snow fell off and on throughout the day and there was also some sun that made the powder snow sparkle on the tree lined slopes.  The trees themselves were brightened as the light hit the pillows of snow piled on the branches.  As I had heard about Montana, "If you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes."  It changed constantly from blowing snow and zero visibility to blinding sun and blue skies. 

As the second half of the day progressed, the group of us would separate and re-join for a few hours as we all skied and boarded what we could. 

I could have used the spiritual help 20 minutes after taking this picture...

On the second to last run Paul and I stopped by to visit Big Mountain Jesus.  A statue of Christ that was built to honor members of the U.S. Military 10th Mountain Division, and it has stood there for the past 50 years. As a side note, this memorial has been subject to some legal debate on whether or not to allow it to remain.  My opinion is that the local government should have the power to allow or reject the display based on local majority opinion even if it is on "Federal Land".  It's not like a 6 foot tall statue on a ski resort mountainside is all that obtrusive and offensive.  If you don't like it, either don't look at it or you are free to not ski that run.

Paul, Nathan and I took the last lift up to the top of the mountain as the lifts closed.  The clouds had socked in the summit and the wind was whipping snow off the peak.  It was a really inhospitable looking place, but our coats and gear just made it fun to look at.  It's strange to be standing in a place like that, and to be perfectly encased in clothes that protect you so that you are comfortable even when the world outside would try to kill you in a short period without them.  We skirted the peak and looked over the deadly looking drop-offs that were marked as black diamond trails.  I really wonder if dropping into one of those trails would have been any worse than what proceeded to happen.

(Important tangent for all you readers: this next part of the trip sucks way worse than the eating heaps and heaps of humble pie as mentioned in the previous post, so if you have to choose...)

Down a trail from the summit,
Friends Nearby, 
Wind Rushing,
White Snow Made into Clouds,
Steep Rolling Trail,
Oh, NO!!! Off Balance,
Save it! Save It!
A Red Flash.

Cold snow on my face...

Please, Oh Please, Don't Let It Be Broken...

And that, my friends, is about as choppy and rapid-fire as the last moments of that run feel when I recall them.  (and it's painfully obvious from that artful bit of writing that I'm not an English Major either, but I never wanted to have a job that required me to ask "Do you want fries with that?") 

Paul was first there and Nathan shortly afterwards to help as he had to come back up the slope a bit to reach me. 

I knew it was broken.  The leg moved in a way it shouldn't when I shifted it.  The concern on both their faces was evident.  Paul stayed with me and Nathan rocketed down the slopes to tell the Ski Patrol, and from that point began the one of the most limiting and agonizing injuries I have ever had.  Agonizing not so much related to the pain, but more related to my need to move and the need to be independent.  I am trapped for a time in a body that won't let me do what I want to do. 

The Erector Set

I sat in the snow for about 20 minutes with Paul watching up the slope to warn anyone coming down that we were in the way.  The Ski Patrol arrived (without the trumpet fanfare I had imagined for some reason) and they were skilled and really wonderful people.  We actually had a couple of laughs as they splinted me and loaded me in the sled. We were so far out on the mountain that they couldn't get a snowmobile up to me.  They helped me slide into some form of sled and strapped me in.  I was covered in a vinyl tarp to keep snow from flying in my face as they towed me.  We were flying down the mountain from what I could tell, and the sled would pitch violently from side to side as the terrain changed.  That rolled me several times onto the broken leg.  I could hear the guy say, "Sorry man." when it happened.  There wasn't much to do aside from just deal with it.

When we arrived at a ski lift somewhere along the trail, (I don't know which since I was totally disoriented by the sled ride) they attached the sled to a chair and sent us up the lift to where a snowmobile could reach me and tow me to the clinic. I don't ever want to have to make that trip again. Having a broken leg and getting tossed around in a coffin like sled was the stuff that nightmares are made of.

Nathan got this picture before we decided to pull off the ski boot.  Looking back on it, I should have paid for the boot right then and there and had someone destroy it cutting it off my leg rather than what we did.  It took two people to stretch the boot open as much as possible and then we all pulled. 

Take my word for it.  Don't ever do that

Nathan hung with me when I made decision to pull the boot off my broken leg in the clinic. The medic's comment about "You Bama boys are tough." when it was over did make me feel a bit better. I'm sure he has had the opportunity to see the worst in people when they are in pain.
Feeling better with my brand new full leg cast...and loads of pain medication...

The things I have learned and will now pass on to you so you don't have to do this stuff for yourselves: 

Seriously people, please learn this stuff on your own from here on out.  I'm done being the example.

If you are skiing and find yourself saying, "Hey, I'm tired, but I have one more run in me." At that moment you are supposed to just stop and come back tomorrow.  Always leave wanting more.  I believe that this rule may apply to many other sports that risk injury.

Unfortunately, I learned this lesson at the end of the first day of the trip, and after a lovely night in the hospital, I was back in the Lodgepole house where we were staying.

I want to take the time to give my absolute appreciation to all the guys on the trip (Paul, Nathan, John, Way, Carper, and Andy)  You guys are true friends and were wonderful to have around helping out after my accident.  I can't say enough good things.  It really meant a lot to have your company, daily ski stories, and assistance while I was there.  When I get out of this cast and can move again, I'm going to throw a massive party.  Carper...Uh...plane tickets?  I may have to delay catching up with you until I can make it out to Colorado.  It will happen though.

I also have to thank my wife and friends at the office for helping me out now that I have gone on for 2 months without writing about this incident.  I owe my wife a trip to Hawaii or something since she has been driving me everywhere for the past 8 weeks...if I can ever save up enough after paying for the erector set leg.
Way and John on the lift...Twins?  Nah...

I will have the video up in the next post, and I think it came together pretty well.

Thanks again everyone.

1 comment:

John Lyons said...

Nice story Brad! Love that you are smiling in all of the pictures. Not sure how you managed to do that!!