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Wrong place at the Wrong time...

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
We all ski differently and my style of skiing, whle not overly-risky, often put me into situations where if something went wrong, then I would end up in rough shape very fast. Not that I am by any means "extreme" or high risk, but i pull off moves in close quarters that I know and have practiced in the open, such that if I made a small slip up, things could get ugly real fast. three weeks, it did...

I'm typing with a cast on my right arm, with my heavily plastered wrist resting on the desk to allow two handed typing, the result of a "last run of the saeason" that ended about 200 meters before I had planned...

Eight weeks ago I had separated my left AC joint (shoulder separation for the uninitiated) while skiing and had just healed up enough to comfortably raise my arm above my head. I had counted my season as over since the hill I taught at this year had already closed up, but a friend invited me to go for one more ski day a short 3-hour-drive north at Nub's Nob. I foolishly accepted (though in the end my less than ideal state was not a contributing factor to my debacle of a day). I had skiied all day and fell once, breaking my friend's pair of new Atomic beta carv 8.18s (I know, a soft, intermediates ski to begin with) clean through in a slide and that should have been my omen to call it quits but I foolishly perservered ignoring the obvious effects fatigue was having on my skiing. I felt sloppier by the run, having not skiied in 5 weeks, with less than the ideal amount of sleep the previous night, and a full day of some of the most challenging runs the lower peninsula has to offer under my belt, but it was only 10 minutes before close anyways so I told my ski bud, "One more run."

Having patroller friends at the ski school I know that a common refrain among the maimed is "It was my lst run" so I decided long ago that I take my last runs easy. Of course, being a foolish 20- year old, with a ski ego bolstered by a season of instructing and coordination impaired by fatigue, I began tearing down the slushy groomed run tearing out long GS carves. I can still feel the cadence of my turns as I tipped 'em over in each direction, feeling the wind whip through my hair.

Now, as I mentioned before, I often put myself into situations in which if something went wrong, the it would be terribly wrong but I had always come through unscathed. On this occasion as I was pulling a tight GS turn at a fair rate of speed along the edge of the trail abreast of a lift tower, I was beginning to face the fall line in the turn when I hit some extemely slushy snow and lost a ski and fell on my side and slid. Normally these are not that bad, except for the bruised ego; I just walk up and gather my skis and ski down the run of shame in full view of the lift tower, but this time was diferent. As I began sliding, I rotated so I was beginning to slide head first, leading with my back, and as I rotated, I looked ahead to see... that lift tower I had meant to ski past.

In Michigan, and especially at Nubs Nob, the fake snow lasts long after the real stuff has gone, but around the lift towers there are always holes, ruts you could call them, exposing the base of the tower where gigantic bolts lock the tower onto its cemented pedastal, and that was my ultimate destination. I did not have a lot of time to think because it all happened in an instant, but I DO remember that as I realized I was going to hit the tower head first, I thought to myself as quick as a snapshot "I'm going to die." And then I impacted the blue painted structure.

I opened my eyes, my whole body bathed in seering pain I had never felt before, except for my right hand, which didnt hurt at all. I thought that was rather curious and ignored the fact i was upside down in the rut around the tower and focused on my hand. I coudn't feel it and that distressed me. I couldn't move it either. I began to panic fearing I had somehow paralyzed myself and attempted to draw my first breath, only to discover the impact had knocked it from me. I tried to right myself as the pain along my entire back was tremendous, and as I assumed a sitting position and began to get air into my lungs, I relaesed a sound that I had intended to be the word, "Help", but was on reflection so inhumanly pitiful that it would have been unrecognizable as speech in any other situation.

Patrol quickly showed up and told me I'd slid off the edge and hit the tower with my back and side in the air, because of the drop off. I looked annoyingly at the foam impact guard strapped to the front of the tower, at least 3 feet above the ground, reflecting the snow depth during the high-season. Shock dulled the pain and to make an already-inflated story somewhat more readable I got driven to the hospital and was treated for a pinched radial nerve (responsible for the temporarily paralyzed hand), a cracked rib, mildly bruised kidney, and a broken humorous. I had extensive bruising and a few open wounds along my back. but they were secondary to the other injuries.

Now that the season is over and my arm has been healing for three weeks and all else is basically well, I can reflect on my accident. I wasn't sure if I wanted to ski again next year but now I think I do. I'll have to make some fundamental changes to the way I ski however. I don't know if I even COULD ski the way I did before. I'll also be investing in a brain bucket come next snowfall. In addition, the cost of starting up again is likely to be high, since in the crash, I broke my poles, a ski boot and a ski binding, as well as tearing my jacket to shreds along the giant steel bolts leaving trace amounts of blood in the parka liner.

All in all I find myself blessed to have come out the way that I did. I hit my head on the tower, but with such little force the doctors were amazed. I completely missed injuring my spine though I did extensive soft tissue injury on both sides of my back. Strangely though, for 24 hours after the accident, I was spitting blue paint chips from the tower and I have no idea how they got there since I impacted with my back to the tower...

Sometimes the lessons taught by catastrophic failures are the most powerful and I can only be thankful that the cost of my learning experience was not more than my fragile human form could bear.

Edit: I tell this story, not to "brag" about a ski injury or to try and illicit sympathy, these are not my motivations. I'm just trying to relay an event that is likely going to be signifigant to my life as a skier.

[ May 01, 2004, 09:01 AM: Message edited by: Karsten Hain ]
post #2 of 12
Sounds like you were pretty lucky. Scratch that - really lucky. How did you break your boot and binding?
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
To be honest, I'm not really sure, On the ski, the steel plate the binding is attached to is twisted and on the boot a steel buckel was torn off.
post #4 of 12
It must take some force to do that. You really are lucky to be OK.
post #5 of 12
Sorry to hear about your crash, Karsten. Maybe you should spend some time following a slow old guy like me. Of course, slow speeds haven't kept me from such ski injuries as a fractured skull, separated sternum and fracture/dislocation of a shoulder. Heal well
post #6 of 12
I hope you have a speedy recovery, continue to enjoy skiing, buy that Brain Bucket, and live happily ever after.

Things like this happen for a reason. You've been warned by Ullr. I'm glad you're going to be ok. :
post #7 of 12
Thanks for passing this along to all of us. It should be a lesson for everyone in terms of allowing a buffer to exist between us and hard objects.

I hope you heal quickly and will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

I'm having my left shoulder operated on in a week due to an overuse injury. At my age I seem to be lined up for one surgical procedure per annum.
post #8 of 12
Do you have any residual effects from the pinched nerve? I pinched a nerve in my neck in a fall I had early in the season. I had no real pain, just numb fingers (Which I attributed to the carpal tunnel I had been diagnosed with a couple summers ago). I attributed my headaches to job stress(I am a special needs teacher). I finally went to the doctor after ski season was over here. She ordered a CT Scan, didn't like what she saw in it and ordered an MRI. My headaches and numb hands were caused by the pinched nerve. I am undergoing PT and it is helping. I should recover 100%.

I was wearing a helmet thank goodness, it could have been much worse.

Good luck with your recovery. The Brain Bucket is a Great idea.
post #9 of 12
I was at nubs their closing weekend and noticed the same thing you brought up, that the pads were not properlly positioned.

A few weeks before I was in Mammoth and saw ski patrollers repositioning the pads each of the 3 days I was there.

What gives? Did they offer any reason why they don't adjust the pads down as the snow melts?

At Mammoth it appears to be a daily ritual to check all the pads out.

Nubs does a great job on grooming, you'd think they'd keep the pads in the correct place.
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
skierteach1: Actually I had similiar symptoms, the tops of my hands were numb, i couldn't extend my fingers, only grip with them and terrible coordination bbut it has been improving rapidly. Now only my thumb is numb and I am recovering coordination and extension strength very well. If it still remains in a month I will take a cue from your experience and get it checked out by a specialist.

Thanks to everyone for the support, they didn't really offer an explanation for the lift tower pads beingh 3 feet too high, but I imagine they fixed them that night At least I HOPE they did... :
post #11 of 12
Karsten, wow glad your ok. I head a bad accident a few years back. I too didn't know I was going to ski again. When I got back on the slope the next year I was very nervous. I was always looking around and skiing very defensively. It took time but I got over the fear. I hope this helps. I know its a long time from now until next season. You will be ok when the time comes to ski again.
post #12 of 12
Karsten, best wishes for a speedy recovery. I had a similar "wake-up call" on a bicycle many years ago and still ride, but with a very different approach. No doubt you'll be back and loving it. And at least you've got the summer to recover.
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