This one goes out to the makers of that helmet I was wearing Sunday afternoon. Much love.

This helmet saved my ass, big time.

You should have seen me on the mountain last Saturday, man. I was like Tony Hawk. No, wait; he’s a skateboarder.

Dude, last Saturday, I was like Shaun White. Yeah, man, that’s who I was like: Olympic gold-medalist snowboarder Shaun White.

OK, not so much … but, still, I turned in one of the best days of snowboarding I’ve ever had—which was impressive, since I only boarded once last winter, and hadn’t done it at all for the six seasons prior to that.

But anyway, yeah, Saturday, after Zan and Jayna’s amazing morning of skiing, Wonder Woman and I put in some time on the slopes, me on a board and her on skis. The weather was spectacular, and each run was better than the one before it. I was shredding. Or carving. Or something. Whatever the cool kids call it, that’s what I was doing.

Not only did I avoid wiping out on any of the trails I tackled, but I also managed to successfully disembark from the ski lift without eating it … which, as far as I’m concerned, is the most difficult task a snowboarder like myself faces—and by “like myself,” I mean “an almost-40-year-old man who is happy to zig-zag down the mountain without attempting a single jump, hop, or spinny, twirly thing of any kind.”

If you’ve never snowboarded, allow me to explain why the ski lift is a particular challenge for boarders:

Skiers have their skis on as they ride up the lift … which means they also have their skis on when they get off the lift … which means it’s very easy for them to slide down the little hump at the ski-lift disembarkation point.

Boarders, however, must unbuckle their back foot from their board in order to move themselves into position to get on the lift, and are required to keep their back foot free until after they get off the lift. What this means is that, as you reach the disembarkation point, you must set the board down on the snow with your buckled-in lead foot, then place your free-floating rear foot on the board and pray to whatever higher power you might believe in that you remain upright as you slide down the little getting-off-the-ski-lift hill with essentially no stability whatsoever, because a snowboard? A snowboard is designed to be maneuvered by way of two feet tightly affixed to its surface. Unbuckle one foot, and what you now have is a slippery, out-of-control slab of fiberglass that can fuck you up 12 ways to Sunday if you should happen to make the slightest of wrong moves.

So delightful was my Saturday snowboarding experience that, despite only intending to board that one day, I took advantage of an equally gorgeous Sunday to spend a few more hours on the mountain.

In the wake of my Saturday experience, I felt pretty invincible … which is why it shocked the hell out of me when, during one of my first runs on Sunday, the sky cracked open and the hand of God reached down, grabbed me around the ankles, lifted me in the air and slammed me backwards in a whip-like fashion onto one of the steepest, most frozen and hard-packed sections of the mountain.

Actually, it went more like this: I was winding my way down what, up until that point, had been my most favorite trail—one that I had torn up repeatedly the day before—and, after hanging back a bit in order to keep my distance from a slow-moving and apparently novice skier, I decided to blow past him, because, hey, dude, Shaun White doesn’t hang back. So, at the appropriate moment, I pointed the board downhill and zipped by Mr. Novice … and I believe I might even have taken the liberty of thinking to myself that I was far superior to Mr. Novice, because did you see the ease and finesse with which I just blew past him? I mean, am I cool, or what?

And as I contemplated my superiority and coolness, I cut a turn onto the toe edge of my board on a very steep and very shady section of the trail, whose steepness and shadiness made it hard to see the little mashed-potato-like build-up of snow that, just as I got on my toe edge, grabbed the heel edge of the board. And if you know a little bit about leverage and inertia, then it will come as no surprise to you that hooking the downhill edge of my board into the mountain while traveling at a relatively high speed on a particularly steep surface caused the board itself to stop, and caused the human strapped onto said board to snap backwards in the aforementioned whip-like fashion and slam into the mountainside with tremendous force.

I do not believe my body has ever experienced an impact as bone-jarringly vicious as the one it experienced last Sunday. In the 1/100th of a second that it took for me to go from zipping along upright to drilling myself into the ground, it occurred to me that I was about to die, because I knew that the back of my skull was the thing that would be smashing into the earth with the majority of the force generated by my colossal fuck up. And in that same 1/100th of a second, it also occurred to me that, “Dear sweet Christ, I’m wearing a helmet! Oh, joyous day!”

As the back of my helmet-covered head smashed against the ground, the one thing that was most clear to me was the fact that, had my head not been helmet-covered, the unbelievably violent impact would have, beyond the shadow of a doubt, knocked my ass out cold, and I would have remained that way for a substantial amount of time. I am also quite sure that, at best, I would have suffered a positively spectacular concussion, and, at worst, been either paralyzed, comatose or deader than fried motherfucking chicken.

So there I was, lying flat on my back at a roughly 50-degree angle, head pointed downhill, feet pointed uphill. I remember wiggling my toes to make sure I hadn’t paralyzed myself. With that potential calamity ruled out, I slowly—oh-so slowly—slid myself around so that my still-buckled-to-the-board feet were pointed downhill, and then sat up with great care.

During the crash, I was so focused on my head smashing against the ground that I have no memory whatsoever of the back of my body hitting the deck. However, landing on one’s tailbone is commonplace in heel-edge wipeouts, and I suddenly became very aware that I must have landed on mine with equally impressive force, because—and I know this is sharing too much information, but I’m also the guy who wrote in great detail about getting a vasectomy, so, um, yeah—my rectum or sphincter or colon or some ass-related muscle structure was spasming in such a way that left me certain I must have suffered some kind of massive internal trauma that would require skimobile-driving medics to come peel me off the mountainside and whisk me to a helipad where a chopper would fetch my broken body and transport it to the closest emergency room.

I wasn’t quite ready to start screaming “HELP!” just yet, however, so I sat there trying to get my wits about me and hoped that the very unusual sensations I was feeling in my head and lower torso would pass. For a minute or two, I was seriously questioning whether or not I would be able to get down the mountain of my own volition.

Amazingly, after about five or 10 minutes—or it could have been an hour; who the fuck knows?—I had regained my composure to the extent that I was able to ride my board down the remaining two-thirds of the trail, which deposited me at a secondary chairlift that I had to ride back to the top in order to ski down to the main-lodge area. During that lift ride, and subsequent cautious board ride back to base camp, I kept waiting to have some kind of seizure, or find that my ski pants were drenched in blood leaking from my ass, or slip into massive shock. And all I can say is that a.) helmets are the greatest thing ever, and b.) the human body is incredibly resilient, for I apparently was fine, and continued boarding for the rest of the afternoon. I even took another pass at the trail that had kicked my ass, because I’m a big believer in that “get right back on the horse that threw you” thing.

But back to that getting-off-the-lift stuff I described earlier: my stellar record of perfect dismounts came to an end late in the day when, just as I got off the lift, I fell, hard, facing forward, and took most of the impact on my right arm. I felt a ferocious “pop” in my shoulder joint as my arm got twisted back in a highly unnatural fashion, at which point it snapped off of my body and slid down the mountain. I filled out a form at the Lost & Found, and they promised to call me if they find it.

OK, I still have my arm, but four days later, it feels like the cartilage in my right shoulder joint has been replaced with crushed glass. However, as someone who almost got surgery for chronic, since-resolved pain in my left shoulder, I’m pretty sure the damage is nothing too serious, and that I’ll be back to normal in a week or two.

So, as fate would have it, the most vicious and forceful crash my body has ever suffered left me with no lasting pain whatsoever, while the little “Hey, I’m a dipshit who fell two feet after getting off the ski-lift” mishap continues to plague me.

But, man, other than those two incidents, I was Shaun White, dude. I’m tellin’ you: Shaun motherfucking White … if Shaun White was almost 40, didn’t do any tricks, and whined like a little bitch when he fell down and got a boo-boo.

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13 Comments

  1. ashley
    Posted February 20, 2009 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I totally agree about getting off the lift. I’m horrible at boarding but the hardest part is getting off the lift, and not falling face first into the snow. And when you do that, and don’t get back up fast enough the people on the lift behind you run over you :P It’s horribly embarrassing.

  2. Posted February 20, 2009 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    If you had not yet considered it you may need to replace your helmet after having it impacted like that.

  3. Mike
    Posted February 20, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    So you’re saying you fell down? This reminds me of the time I lost you at Killington, remember that? Haha, that was good times. Of course me being on skis and knowing the mountain I was able to find my way back to the parking lot at Rams Head before the lifts turned of at 4 o’clock but you somehow wound up on Route 100 in Bridgewater or something. Yeah it would have been fine–I mean I’d lost friends on mountains before and they had always turned up within a day or two–except that you had my car keys in your backpack. Yeah and it was before cell phones. So it kind of sucked (for me, I mean) wandering around that parking lot freezing my ass off until you finally hitch hiked your way back up there. But hey the fire at the Outback Pizza was nice and warm and the beers tasty. Good times, good times.

    And just so you know we took the girls skiing on Monday and it was my first time on skis in 2 years and yet my utter awesomeness on snow had not diminished a bit.

  4. Candice
    Posted February 20, 2009 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Ouchhhh! Glad you’re okay. This is why I don’t ski. You’re a trooper.

  5. Posted February 20, 2009 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Well, good to know that headgear actually does serve a purpose! I curse the darn hardhat I have to wear every day in my working life – perhaps I will be more friendly towards it while I remember your story. Oh, and I’m glad to hear that your arm and head are okay – I hope that you can say the same for your ass. :)

  6. Posted February 20, 2009 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    That’s one great thing about Utah, we have powder so it doesn’t hurt to fall. Good luck with your recovery, my husband and I were cracking up at your post!

    • Posted February 20, 2009 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

      Ashley: Yes, a pressure-cooker of a scenario, for sure. Somebody’s gotta be out there working on some kind of invention that’ll make it less harrowing to get off the lift on a board.

      Maelstrom: Thanks. I’m too poor to own snowboarding equipment, and too poor to use it with any regularity even if I had some. As a once-a-year boarder at this point, I’m strictly rental material.

      Mike: Yeah, dude, pretty unforgettable. Nothing like hitchhiking on the side of the road in the dark Vermont night, freezing, with a snowboard. Lots of takers on that one, I tell ya. But you’re damn straight about the pizza joint; that was the berries. I remember sitting at the bar, basking in the glow and warmth of the brick oven, downing some tasty beer and pizza … and seeing one of the shelf slabs spontaneously break in half. Wacky.

      That Killington trip was the second time I ever snowboarded, and I had not yet figured out that steeper is better when learning to board, as the lack of clearance for your downhill edge on a relatively flat trail exponentially increases the odds of catching said edge and eating it … which is what I did ALL. DAY. LONG. My body was wrecked the next day. Never been so sore in my life.

      How’d the girls do? And, yeah, I didn’t already think you were enough of a stud for regularly running marathons, so it’s a relief to know that you’re still utterly awesome on skis. Phew.

      Candice: Thanks. You and me both. And don’t let my horror story dissuade you; wearing skis and taking a leisurely glide down a beginner trail is a much different thing than pretending you’re 14-year-old on a snowboard tearing your way down steep and icy trails.

      smashmom: Yeah, big proponent of the helmet. Life saver, I tell ya.

      Mari: Thanks for the well wishes, and glad I cracked you up. And as for powder: I boarded Keystone and the Snow Bowl in Colorado back in March of 2000, and, yeah, powder is a much nicer thing to land on. Definitely gonna hafta hit the slopes in Utah one of these days.

  7. Posted February 20, 2009 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    Scene: Lynn on a snowboard, circa Feb. 2006. Sixth-ish date with Steve.

    Steve: Comon, this is easy! (slides by Lynn with grace and does a double herky-jump off a small lip on the snowboard bunny hill)

    Lynn: THWAP! (sound of head hitting ground) Insert string of expletives here. Somebody help me up please?

    [sexy 20-something boarding instructor helps Lynn to her feet for the 20th time. Lynn begins to slide down said bunny hill until ...]

    THWAP (sound of head hitting ground) Insert second string of expletives here. Repeat scenario for 2 hours, 16 minutes and 32 seconds. Then watch Lynn walk down the hill, leaving her rental board behind for Steve the hotshot first-time snowboarder to gather up.

    Lynn: Insert 15-minute string of expletives.

    Fast forward to 4:30 pm. Scene: condo bathroom. View: two foot bruise across Lynn’s lily-white ass. Zoom in to the back of her head to gaze upon large lump formed there.

    Never again, I tell you.

  8. Posted February 23, 2009 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    What with the ladder incident, you are turning into a bit of a clutz! You need to be more careful. I don’t know what I would do if anything happened to you.

  9. Posted February 24, 2009 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    I hope you don’t mind, but I put a link to your site on my blog. I linked here from your comment on the Pioneer Woman site earlier, and just laughed and laughed as I read your stories – all while not working at work. I’m such a good employee. I really enjoy your storytelling, you have a great talent. Thanks for the entertainment, and kudos to a blog well written!

    • Posted February 25, 2009 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

      Lynn un: Great story. You know, aside from the you-beating-the-hell-out-of yourself part. Sorry for you. But thanks for sharing. :)

      Belle Bamford: Aw, shucks. Are you turning into a softy all of a sudden?

      Sonia: Hmmm. Do I mind free publicity? Lemme think about that one … Um, no! Thanks for the link. And even bigger thanks for the compliments. Glad you are enjoying my writing. :)

  10. Posted August 14, 2009 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    I just have to say that the first time I tried snowboarding, and on the first run down the mountain (or hill since we were in MN) I broke both of my wrists. Two days before Christmas. When staying with my boyfriend’s (now husband) family. I’ll just say that being fed, bathed, and just generally helped with EVERYTHING that weekend was by far the most embarassing time of my life.

  11. Posted February 8, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    I completely understand the feeling of cruising along and then destroying one’s anus.

    I started snowboarding last year, and I was progressing fairly quickly. On my second time out, I was trying to master my toe-side turning, and had a wreck VERY similar to the one you described. My head, however, didn’t take the brunt of the impact. No, it landed squarely and solely on my tailbone.

    It hurt so bad I couldn’t breathe or move…just swear. I very much considered just crab-walk-sliding down the tiny bit of hill left, but as I also feared never getting my nerve back if I did, I got back up, slide down on my heels, and promptly collapsed at the bottom.

    With what I now firmly believe was a broken tailbone, it took about a month before I could sit, stand, lay, or walk comfortably again. I had a 2-inch round numb spot where I hit for about 5 months afterwards. I dinged it again this season, so I’m getting to rock that party all over again, though not near as bad. So…I’ve got that going for me…which is nice.

    In any case, all of that is to say that I understand where you’re coming from, and I sympathize. Also, I totally understand the falling off the lift. I hit my kneecap on my binding the other day, and I very much wanted to vomit. Not fun.

    I enjoyed your post. Well written and funny. Well played, sir.

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