An Adventure – The Broken Rib

Today’s Music: Warren Zevon – Poor Poor Pitiful Me

This probably takes place about 18 years ago, when I was still cooking for a living. On a Tuesday off, me and a few coworkers drove up to Hunter Mountain in my old standard transmission Explorer.
Hunter Mountain isn’t a great mountain. They have the largest snowmaking system in the world (at least, according to their commercials), because they don’t get enough natural snow reliably to open every year.
Another thing about Hunter: the main slope faces east. That means that the sun beats down on the slopes all day until noon, when the sun creeps over the peak and the temperature drops.
And all the melted snow refreezes.
Into sheets of ice.

Looks pretty. Until it's back in shadow...

Looks pretty. Until it’s back in shadow…

Hunter isn’t going to win any awards for quality of snow, length of runs, or even value of food at the lodge.
But if you want to learn to ski ice and crud like nobodies business, Hunter is the place for you.
The refrozen trails get so slick (unless they’re rutted), and so fast that the only way to ski them is to commit totally to your edges and turn fast on all the shaved ice on the trail edges.
I’ve seen my life flash before my eyes so many times in my learning days at Hunter that it’s more familiar to me than the opening of a Star Trek episode. Any of them. (Hey, I have pride. Just no shame.)

So It’s me and two or three coworkers. I’m the only one who’s skied there before, so after they get settled on their gear, I do a few runs with them (look out for ice), give them some tips (No really. look out for ice!), we set a time to meet later for lunch (At the bottom, past all the ice), and off I go.
I ski well. I’m moving at or above my comfort level, I’m nailing my turns (as far as I know – lessons were still in my future), and enjoying the feeling of my smooth, supple grace. Think Dorothy Hamill in fluffy padded pants.

The pixie-cut brings out my eyes.

The pixie-cut brings out my eyes.

I’m tearing down the hill. And here’s what happened from two perspectives.
What I think happened:
I’ve got my head tucked down as I tear into the bottom of the trail, which starts to flatten a bit near the bottom. My weight is forward over my skis, knees are bent and I’m flying. I look at the terrain up ahead. My weight shifts. I feel exhilaration as I feel my ski edges bite into the ice. My knees straighten and shift as I set up for my next turn.
My weight comes down.
The edges bite.
I duck my head lower as I pass through the cloud from a snow gun.
I shoot into a slighter sharper down grade.
My leg slips out from under me. The other ski chatters against the ice, tip skewing wildly from side to side…
*insert a moment of freedom from gravity, body arcing gracefully through the ether*

Yard sale. Skis here…polls there…Guap all over the hill…

The loons, Wilbur. Can you hear the loons?

The loons, Wilbur. Can you hear the loons?

A few moments later, the ringing clears from my head. A small child skis to a perfect stop and asks if I need help.
Little bastard.
I finally regain my equipment and stand up, to feel a sharp pain in my lower chest. One of the mountain staff does a quick check.
Yep. Broken rib.

Now to remind you, I’m not a bad skier. Not great, but not bad. So I shuffle my butt down to the lodge, trying to figure out what just happened. I find my friends down there.
Me – Dude! I just got railed by the hill! Broke my damn rib.
Them – Ouch. What happened?
Me – It was the trail from hell! Chewed me up and spit me out.
Me – You’ve gotta come down it with me!

So we trundle back to the top (pro tip – trundling is hard with a broken rib), and ski back down. For obvious reasons, I’m going much more slowly this time, and I can see the environment much more clearly. Which means I can see…
What Really Happened:

I’ve got my head tucked down as I tear into the bottom of the trail, which starts to flatten a bit near the bottom. My weight is forward over my skis, knees are bent and I’m flying. I look at the terrain up ahead. My weight shifts. I feel exhilaration as I feel my ski edges bite into the ice. My knees straighten and shift as i set up for my next turn.
My weight comes down.
The edges bite.
I duck my head lower as I pass through the cloud from a snow gun.
(slow it down, here it comes…)
I didn’t tuck my head low enough.
Tiny flecks of jet propelled ice stab at the exposed skin on my face. The stinging is shocking, as is the cold.
I tuck my head down further twisting it away from the pain.
And as so often happens, the body follows the head
I turn my head so far over that it pulls me off one ski and unbalances me so badly that there’s no way to stay up on the other.
Yard sale.

Maybe I’m not such a good skier after all…

Grace like this can't be taught.

Style like this can’t be taught.

Postscript: Driving a standard transmission involves stepping heavily on the clutch frequently to shift gears. When driving to Hunter mountain from NYC in a standard transmission vehicle, bring friends who can drive a stick.
Otherwise it will be a very long and painful drive home.

Post Postcript: There is nothing that can be done for a broken rib other than binding the chest. It will heal in a few weeks, and the pain will lessen. The pain of your doctor laughing at you when you tell him the story will fade more slowly.

Post Post Postscript: After you survive the night at work, cooking, lifting, pushing, etc, you will be in even more pain. A beer will help (if you aren’t on medication). And if you tell any story other than the truth for what happened, you may even drink for free.
Otherwise, well, see about the pain of being laughed at above.

81 responses to “An Adventure – The Broken Rib

  1. I can’t even pretend I have the coordination to ski. I can hardly walk some days. I think I will just volunteer to be the one to drive the car and wait for y’all in the lodge.

  2. It amazes me that you have any bones left at all given your adventurous spirit. Rib fractures. Ouch. No fun.

  3. Okay first bawhahaha! and second, ouch! I’ve had a broken rib. Why the heck did you ski further after?!

  4. Poor Guapola!
    For the record I have only tried skiing once. I put the skis on in my friend’s living room…immediately fell over…bruised myself and my ego…and never tried again. On the other hand, I can drive a stick and would be happy to chauffeur should you be in this predicament again.

    • House skiing is fun! The house I lived in had a right angle at the bottom of the stairs between first and second floors.
      I’ve learned enough by now to know not to try and ski that again.

  5. Nice! This is such a perfect reminder of why I gave up snow skiing after only four brief excursions over 10 yrs… the first resulting in 3rd degree burns all over my face — think: blisters everywhere, lips, eyelids, ears, high altitude in NM! — and the last involving having my very own ski trail plowed down the Grand Tetons for me at sunset, a trail that ended at the glass-fronted, 3-story bar where all could witness my humiliating descent, mostly sitting on my own skis until I fell over and began anew.
    But hey! No broken ribs, so there you are, my friend! I love this story and all of your adventure stories, fleshing out the man behind the Guap. Well done!

    • Egad! Were they wind or friction burns?

      I’d have wiped out in front of the bar, put a little etra spin on it for extra effect, then dragged myself in to collect the free drinks from sympathetic well wishers!
      Sadly, many of my more spectacular wipeouts happened under a chairlift. Plenty of mockery, and no pity-booze.
      Sigh… ;)

      • Oh, if only I’d had your confidence and sense of free booze in my late 20′s when that happened!! I might have taken more full advantage. At the time, I was furious at the new lesson of skiing with friends when you’re not very good: “Don’t worry! We’ll ski with you!” Never believe that. Or say that, if you’re a good skier because it just doesn’t happen. I had snow up to the elbows of my wool (yes, wool) jacket, was freezing, and in no mood to collect drunken sympathy (unfortunately). I was with my future-husband and now consider the whole incident to have been a foreshadowing of the marriage.
        As for the burns… it was SUN BURN (6,000 ft). I was only 16, first time skiing, dabbed a little sunscreen on my nose and thought I was good to go. Dr. couldn’t believe it… my face oozed for a week. It was gross.

        • And now I have wrinkles.

          • I’ve managed to teach a few people to ski. The hardest is not laughing when they
            a – fall
            b – try and get up

            My wife never skiied until we dated, and now she loves it almost as much as me. (But much more cautiously.

            The first time I ever went, I skiied in jeans. And fell a lot.
            My legs were blue for a week.

  6. What an awesome story, full of adventure and human pathos. I’ve never broken a rib, but I hear it sucks like a mofo, ‘ cause as you said, all you can do is wait.

    I haven’t skied in several years, but as a teenager in Washington, I used to ski at Crystal Mountain Ski Resort (which, unlike Hunter ‘Mountain’, is on Mt. Rainier, and is thusly deserving of the appellation ‘Mountain’), which is fairly icy. As a consequence, the first time I tried it in powder, I ended up eating a lot of snow. I eventually learned to lean back.

    • Powder vs Ice are two totally different animals. I remember skiing Mad River Glen (also a “mountain”) in Vermont and feeling my like my legs were on fire from leaning back to ski.

      On a related note, until I too figured out I should lean back, I found Vt snow to be very tasty.
      Which made the volume of it I ate from face-plants bearable.

  7. I remember yardsale-ing when I was in kindergarten (grew up in a resort town and we actually had ski school as a subject every Friday afternoon). Someone skied over my back. It was my birthday. I still remember who you are, Bradford!

    • I never skiied over anyone, but I’m pretty good at teh hockey-stop-cover-with-snow people that have fallen.

      I bet Bradford still gets night sweats dreading your revenge.

  8. Just added Hunter to my places to avoid in my round the world ski trekking list. Thanks for that. Ice. Gross. I’ll stick with my perfect powder days at Mammoth, thank you very much.

    • Primadonna.
      I was lucky to ski in Colorado (Steamboat Springs) a few years ago, and after most of my experience in teh east, I think I appreciated it a lot more than the locals.

      • I was lucky enough to ski in Colorado a few years ago too (Crested Butte) and thoroughly enjoyed it as well. I don’t even bother with my local resorts anymore – sure I could go more often because they are closer and cheaper, but I won’t have nearly enough fun to make it worthwhile.

  9. I refuse to do any sport that killed Sonny Bono…

  10. This post reminds me of why I stopped skiing. Because you can hurt yourself no matter what.

    Me? I was starting to go a little too fast one afternoon skiing in France. So I headed off to the side where the snow was higher. I planned to slow down gently and go on.. That is until I saw that it was not a little rise, but a stone wall. No fencing, no cones. No warning. I saved my legs by hitting it with my head as I stopped remarkably quickly and flew into it.

    If it had happened in the US, I would own the resort.

    Glad you survived. And everybody should know how to drive a stick!

    • I understand some places give separate drivers license ratings based on whether or not the driver can do manual.

      I once caught a tree in my crotch, so I feel your pain. And a whole lot more…

  11. Guap, poor guy! I just can’t believe that you went back to ski AFTER your broken rib! Yikes. I hope you had some pain meds at least. I’m a terrible skier, no let me correct, NOT a skier! This would happen to me. I’m glad you’re alive to tell the tale!

    • At that point, I was young and stupid enough to think that a broken rib wouldn’t slow me down.
      At this point, I go a little slower to begin with to avoid that kind of damage!

  12. Yep, laughed out loud.

    Skiing is just a generally bad idea. Please see: your post.

  13. I have never skied and now I really don’t want to. I remember being in the Pyrenees when. I was 16 and seeing tiny tots both skiing and speaking French! I was there on a school exchange to learn French. I was too polite and naiive to use the word then, but the thought was there nonetheless – little bastards!
    Glad you survived!

    • I don’t describe it in this post, but I generally get a moment, towards teh end of the day.
      The mountain has started to empty, so the trails are less crowded and some are even empty. I’ll come racing down a trail and see that it’s empty and come to a stop.
      And for a moment, all I hear are the sounds of me breathing, branches creaking under the snow and ice, and maybe the sound of runoff water burbling down the hill.

      Any discomfort during the day is worth that moment.

  14. Great skiers are boring. You’re a REAL skier.

  15. Priceless!
    Someday, a day that involves alcohol, I’ll tell you my one skiing story.
    Spoiler Alert: it ends badly, but in the same way as yours.
    Thanks for making me feel better about my own “mad skills.”

  16. Guap, thanks for hangin at my blog and saying all those nice things. You rock.

    Admitting to this kind of stuff takes a special breed of human being. I think you’ve inspired me to tell of an embarrassing moment during my LA times, known also as Amy: The Lost Years by my BFF, John.

    What really happened made me laugh so hard. PS then I felt guilty. PPS then I started laughing again PPPS then I got a stitch in my side quite like a broken rib… Amy

    • I’m glad this story could inspire sympathy pains, Amy!

      I’m looking forward to hearing your tale. (Nothing wrong with laughing at these stories when it’s among friends.)

  17. I wonder what that smug kid went on to become……

  18. Regardless of your skiing attributes you can certainly weave a great story Guap, and even better knowing that this one is authentic, I am just pleased that you survived the fall. Embarrassing as it was you lived to tell the tale, it could have been so much worse you know. How do you mean… HOW? Well it could have happened to me :) lmao

    Those kids that always seem to appear after falling
    AOT are so annoying, do you need help indeed :) What a cheek…

    Have a superb Wednesday Guap and thank you for the skiing
    tips, but I think that on this occasion I will pass on the lessons :) lol


  19. I was going to say at least my non-lifestyle stops me suffering injuries, but I’ve heard people suffer injuries from reaching for their remotes aswell

  20. I stick to liquid water for skiing, but it can be just as painful. Happily, I am graceful (and apparently humble).

    Ouch. Happy Hump Day!

  21. Oh haha! Loved this! Brings back memories of working in restaurants, and driving stick shifts and skiing on ice. I am utterly amazed that you went down the hill again with a broken rib!! And that snow machine, sound like maybe they didn’t need the snow as much as they enjoyed watching people yard sale! Oh I really enjoyed this!! (I’m curious, is there any sport you don’t do?)

    • At every turn, your wealth of experience astounds, Linda!
      (I’d have skiied it with a broken rib just to finally catch up to you on our competition of who can be silliest!)
      (I gleefully await your rejoinder and hope I won’t have to rollerblade naked to match it.)
      (Because I don’t feel like buying rollerblades.) ;)

      Ice climbing. That’s the one thing I’ve seen so far that I wouldn’t want to try, though the last of what I wtill want to try is long.

  22. “Yard sale” flashed through me brain several times today- more specifically, it was settling into being as my new fubar mantra. Whenever something goes wrong…”Yard Sale!”. Turns out, you’re not just another pretty face. You got game, and a true blue soul. This song is for you and for your city. I thought of you today. It was a good thing.

  23. Oh, dear. I can’t even imagine how you skiied (skiiied?) with a broken rib. Hubby suffered a bruised rib in an unfortunate ATV ‘incident’ (I say incident since he hadn’t even left the yard and gotten on a trail yet) and he had a hard time moving at all! I liked the story though…:)

  24. When I was young, I begged my parents for skis for 6 months. Christmas morning I awoke to find a beautiful pair of powder blue skis. My Dad took us out to a small hill (think side of on ramp for a freeway). My family all watched as I tried to ski down the side of the hill, falling often & slipping & sliding my way down. I got better as I practiced but unfortunately the hill got steeper & steeper to climb back up as the day went on. I stopped skiing for a while. Then my father had another brilliant idea, if I didn’t have the stamina to keep climbing back up hills so I could ski back down (all that work for 30 seconds of fun), maybe I would enjoy being towed around on my skis behind our snowmobile. Thoroughly enjoyed this until my father cut his turn too tight & I ended up in a heap in the snowbank. Wait for it! With a broken rib! And the wind knocked out of me! Skis were stored in the basement until a garage sale a few years later.

    • If it weren’t my dad, I’d have asked (insisted) that whoever was driving the snowmobile get on the skis and let me drive.

      • My mother just about murdered my father when I fell & couldn’t breathe! I was like a whirling dervish with one shoulder planted in the snow & my feet turning me in circles as I tried to get a breath. Funny to look back on now, but not so funny at the time!

  25. Laughed at your pain, Guapo! Loved the retelling of this – just priceless.

  26. Ahaha! Can so relate. We have a small ski hill around here… or shall i say – ice hill! It’s scary stuff :)

  27. The first time I ever skiiiiied, it was on a blue diamond run at night, at Keystone in Colorado. Also, I had been drinking. Needless to say, I was lucky to escape with some bruises on my head.

  28. Ouch, Guap. My first and only skiing trip was down Mt. Hood, OR. I didn’t know what to wear, so I wore my new jeans. There were splotches (some rather large) of blue dye on the trail all the way down the mountain. Moogles were the worst for me. I could get the downhill little part of them, but since I snowplowed every time I went down, I couldn’t get enough speed to go back up the little moogle hill. I stuck to skating after that! :) I can admire your efforts – even with a broken rib. Hope you feel better soon! :)

  29. I couldn’t even imagine myself skiing. Your adventure sounds fun but also painful…I can’t endure with that physical pain. :D

  30. I’ve been eaten by a mountain, too, Guap. It chewed up my knee, but at least it was on the last day of my vacation instead of the first.

    My mom wouldn’t let us get our driver’s license until we learned to drive a standard. She said that maybe we would need to drive her to the hospital one day. I thought, yeah right. Then one day I was watching a survival show on TV and one brother was mauled by a bear when camping. His brother made him even more miserable while trying to drive his standard to the hospital. Lesson learned. Plus, who wants to drive an automatic Mustang? <3

    • I hate to say it, but an automatic Mustang is a waste of a car.

      And boy, do those mountains love to eat! I have one knee that seems to be their favorite snack.
      Well, most of one knee, it feels like…

  31. Pingback: Doing it the way you planned matters less than doing it the way you can | drinkswellwithothers

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