Tag Archives: Dorothy Hamill

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…
And
*insert a moment of freedom from gravity, body arcing gracefully through the ether*
KABOOM!!!!!

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.
Pause…
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.
Aaannnnd…
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.