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.