March 18 , 2007

I'm a couple of days and a whole lot of meetings removed from the slopes but I've still got one particular image burned into my mind.

Ever have that happen?

You see something and the instant is frozen in time, in color none the less.

But its not just for the moment, the image stays with you. You close your eyes and you "see" it. What's even more powerful is that you can be looking at something else in broad daylight and you "see" it again.

And again

And again. . .

I had such a moment a long time ago - somewhere back thirty years or so. I could look it up but I'm stuck on an airplane at the moment and the date is in a book at home.

Actually, although the very memory is faded, I can still remember its primary color, orange.

It happened one sunny afternoon when I was flying. The short version of the story is that I was flying straight and the other guy was making a very gradual turn into my flight path. As time and space would have it, the small speck of an airplane hid behind the left pillar of the windshield.

I never saw him till it was too late and one of my passengers yelled LOOK OUT!

I reacted instantly and dove the airplane trying to miss those big orange numbers that filled the windshield.

It didn't matter what I did, because we were not destined to hit each other that day, we were destined to miss.

Last Sunday however, I was not so fortunate.

And no, it wasn't another car accident, I've been hit enough times already to satisfy my lifetime quotient.

No, this one happened right out in the open air, under a bright blue sky on the ski slopes in Colorado.

I confess, I was going fast.

I had just hit 57 the evening before and I figured that if the conditions were right I just might break 60 on Sunday afternoon.

I just about broke a lot of other things as well, you know, things like arms and legs and maybe a neck for good measure.

I knew it wasn't a record run, in fact I was on the "run out" and was just keeping up with another skier who happened to be on my left and slightly in front of me. For the spot, I was going fast, but I didn't think it was excessive.

If you ask, I've got no clue yet just how fast I was going, but I'd estimate it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 30 miles per hour, when out of nowhere, and I mean nowhere, there he was.

Right in front of me -

Bigger than numbers on an airplane actually, because I didn't have even a second to react.

Body slam - two six foot skiers collide and you have, as his buddy said, "an instant garage sale of equipment, right there on the slopes."

I took his shoulder in my chest and immediately got the wind knocked out of me.

The rest of it?

Who knows, I only know that I felt my teeth jar, so much so that as I was struggling to get up, I felt that some of my teeth had moved because my bite was off.

After sliding face down to a stop I attempted to stand but fell back into the snow unable to breathe. I lifted my self up by my elbows and crawled in some kind of instinctive reaction to get the weight off of my chest.

I started doing a complete body check, and other than the pain in my chest I didn't feel any pain like I did the year before when I broke my thumb skiing.

Things were looking up...

I didn't taste or see any blood.

I kept feeling however that my mouth had been knocked askew. I flexed my jaw and figured that if it was broken I'd have trouble moving it.

The other guy staggered to his feet and we both asked each other if we were ok... and the preliminary reports came back with no evident broken bones.

Now things were really looking up.

The other guy's friend took me aside and said that it was a stupid thing for him to have done, whatever it was that he did to get into my path, and in fact, this was his first time on skis.

First time?

What the hell was he doing there at the bottom of a blue diamond crossing traffic without even bothering to look up the hill?

Granted, I was going fast, and the downhill skier is the one you are suppposed to be able to avoid.

But when someone jumps out into traffic without looking, how do you avoid that?

After a couple of minutes we started to gather up our gear. As I clicked into my skis the ski patrol showed up and was content to find that we were all ok, but then the other guy discovered that one of the front bindings had been shorn completely off of his ski.

I suspect that my ski was the party at fault on that one, but there was no evident damage to my ski. I had a bent pole, but that got fixed with just a few seconds work.

How he got down off the mountain, I don't know.

Maybe they gave him a ride, maybe he walked.

All I know is that I still see him - a big darkly dressed guy who pulled out in front of me without a chance to avoid the crash.

For days I could barely lift my right arm with a glass of water in it. Spouse (from afar) diagnosed a wiplash injury because of how I could not raise my neck when laying flat in bed.

The only visible damage was a bruise in the middle of my forehead where the helmet and my hard head had some kind of collision, probably with the ground

Eight days later my chest still hurts when I take a deep breath and my left tibia is still sore to the touch.

So what lesson?

Well, lesson one, get back on the horse, provided you can still move.

Since I could, and with the help of some Aleve, I was back at it the next day at 12,400 feet on my favorite top of the world ski slope, A-Basin.

I think I'm giving up trying to break 60 and stick with the natural speed of the slopes. There is still plenty of fun to be had in the 40-50 mph range.

We'll see how the arm works tomorrow as I hit the pool for the first time in about two weeks.