LindaA, Roto -
Thanks for the inputs. I'm still very interested in learning anything that I can about this incident / story.
A week or so ago, on another ski forum, several people alerted me to the similarities between the story you found, and the incident I remember.
I was fairly sure that early onset OldTimers disease had hit me until I did an extensive web search on this story, and wound up with over 100 relevant hits.
The bottom line seems to be that there is one main story (virtually identical to the one you found) floating around. It seems to be extremely popular and easily found. It is truly in the category of "urban legend". With the exception of a few of minor variations such as occupation of the woman and specific location, all of these versions of the story are virtually identical to the one you found.
The incident that I believe I remember differs significantly from the standard version:
1) Mine happened in a ski school class and no husband or boyfriend was around.
2) Mine happened part way down the mountain (not at the top) on a trail with no lift towers nearby.
3) As I remember the day, the temperature was reasonable, probably in the mid-30's, not even in the teens, and certainly NOT 12 below.
4) The woman in my story was not injured by any means, certainly not by crashing into a lift tower (see #2).
5) The woman in my version was just off the trail in back of us and not any significant distance into the woods. She was going backwards very slowly and fell to her side within probably 20 or 30 feet of the start of her backwards slide. The terrain was not at all steep - this was a class of novices. Over the years, many people have commented on how improbable it would be for a novice to be able to successfully ski backwards out of trees (with their pants down), and go far enough downhill backwards to build up enough speed to hurt themselves. They would fall over long before this happened. Also, apparently, broken arms are not a very likely injury if a person hits a lift tower.
6) My woman (obviously) did not have to go to the hospital.
7) My version did not have a stranger fall off the lift and have a chance encounter with the victim in the hospital.
8) My version has a non-ending (she skulked off). The standard version always has a good "punch-line" like ending, "So how did you break your arm".
9) Nobody ever claims they saw the incident themself. I do. I even remember that I fell, got the front of my jeans wet (yeah - jeans - OK? I was a never-ever) and had to rush back to the condo to change them after the lesson.
10) If my version is correct, there was a large number of people present (the ski class, the instructor, the second instructor or patroller) who could in principle be tracked down by virtue of employment records, ski school attendance records (if they were kept), etc.
Some people who are experts in urban legends have researched the standard version and have determined that it suddenly sprang into existence in the mid-70's. This is exactly when I remember my incident occurring - I was at a scientific conference in Steamboat, and if I make the effort, I could probably determine the exact date to within plus or minus a day or two. If I remember, I presented a paper at the meeting and there may even be a book of abstracts published, which would at least definitely place me in Steamboat in that week.
Altho I am obviously not sure of this, it is my suspicion (maybe its really a hope) that I did not incorporate the standard urban legend into my own memories, but rather, the incident I witnessed may very well have been the actual basis for the urban legend, and that the differences that arose between the story and the real incident were "enhancements" made (perhaps inadvertently) to make it a better tale.
If anyone has any more info on this story, particularly anything from the mid '70's, I would appreciate hearing about it.