In the name of exercise and fresh air, we skinned up the groomer at Alta this morning and once at the top of the Collins Chair, I looked over toward Mt. Baldy, which brought back memories of the worst fall I’ve ever taken.
At the time, I was still kind of into resort skiing and was up at Alta on a nice day with my wife (now ex-wife) when the Patrol opened the gates to Baldy Chutes. It was late in the season and I was amp’d to get up there, so I punched out the booter approach and waited at the top of what I think is called “Perla’s” on the trailmap. While waiting for the wifey, a bunch of skiers passed me and headed over to Baldy Chute, so I decided that this untracked line would be good enough and waited for my wife. And waited. And waited.
By the time she showed up (all of about five minutes later, but I never said I was a patient person), I was ready to go. The line had a micro cornice on it and I had tossed a snowball down on the landing to see if it was soft, which it appeared to be. Once Chris-The-Ex showed up, I slid off the cornice, expecting to land on a little soft ridge of snow.
Instead of a soft ridge, it was firm and I immediately fell backwards. At this point I was still pissed off about waiting, so I didn’t panic too much, but suddenly, I realized I was airborne and accelerating really, really fast.
I was trying to spot my landing, but hit on my side, which kicked me up in the air even higher, and not only that, now I was cartwheeling. I still wasn’t panicked by the time I hit again, but this time it was like the turbocharger had kicked in – now I was waaaaay off the ground cartwheeling completely out of control.
I saw the landing coming, but again landed on my side/head, and now picked up even more speed and altitude. At some point, rocks, trees and sky all blended together and I realized I was either going to break my back or die.
The next time I hit… I landed upright with both my skis on at a complete stop! It was 100% pure luck. I had covered about 500′ of vertical distance hitting only four times and only lost my sunglasses.
Since it was a warm sunny day in the spring, there were a group of people hanging around at the top of the then Germania chair, who gave me a round of applause. A minute or so later, a lone ski patroller came out the traverse (I had stopped about five feet above it) and asked if I was alright. I said I was, to which he said “You are really lucky, you know that?”
It was for sure, pure luck that I wasn’t hurt and more than anything in my skiing life before, changed the way I ski. Nowadays I’m much more conservative, don’t huck cliffs, try to get falls under control immediately, and of course, never, ever wait for my ex-wife.
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