Saturday did not go according to plan.
After a long and somewhat stressful week, I was looking forward to a mellow day on the slopes. A few inches of new snow this week promised some slightly softer conditions, and an opportunity to get to know the Praxis better. I’ve had them out on bomber ice twice and super variable backcountry snow once, so I was interested to see how they performed in regular conditions. B and I decided to start out with a couple of quick warmup runs under Green chair while we waited for a friend of his to join us, and then head over to Blackcomb. It was free-pass-for-Santas day, and the mountain was covered in red-and-white outfits.
On our second run I was cruising down the last stretch of Ego Bowl back to the lift when a skier slammed into me from behind with no warning at all. She hit my left side hard and her speed took her right through me, driving me head- and shoulder-first into the hard-packed snow. I felt my legs and skis hitting the ground in a sliding, bouncing tumble and the only thing I could think about was my left knee. By the time I slid to a halt I’d lost both skis, my backpack was busted open, and my goggles had blown off my helmet. The other skier was a ways downslope of me, with one of her skis above her and one below.
I knew immediately that the knee felt okay, but I’d hurt my shoulder badly. I tried to stand up but that arm wouldn’t support me and I sat doubled over on the snow, clutching it and waiting for the pain to ease. Below me, I saw the other skier standing up and gathering her skis. With the wind knocked out of me from the fall, all I could do was watch as she glanced at me, gave a panicky look around, then got her skis on as fast as she could and took off without a word. Even through the pain, I was furious. There are always inconsiderate skiers on the mountain – especially one as busy as Whistler gets – and I’ve seen people leave the scene of collisions they caused before, but not when the skier they hit was still down and obviously injured.
I hauled myself to my feet, at which point the adrenalin hit with full force. I got my skis back on, but as soon as I started to head downwards I realized that I couldn’t use my left arm at all. I skied down to the lift with my poles in my right hand, watching closely for the other skier – at that point I was hoping that she was on the chair and I could let the lifties know and have a patroller waiting for her at the top. Needless to say there was no sign of her; having mown down another skier in a designated slow skiing zone on a green run, the cowardly little creep had hotfooted it out of the area.
B and I made our way to the Roundhouse, where another fabulous WB ski patroller checked me out and told me he thought I had a separated shoulder. By this time I couldn’t raise my arm without a sharp, burning pain in the shoulder, and I could feel waves starting to radiate out into my back and neck. We downloaded and the WB car took me over to the clinic. The verdict: type 1 shoulder separation and some underlying muscle damage. At least this time I was skiing with a friend; B generously gave up his day on the slopes to make sure I was okay and drive me back to Vancouver.
In spite of the fact that I’m still mad as hell about how this happened, I’m surprisingly sanguine about the injury itself. I’ve got the NSAID and ice routine down pretty well at this point, and two days later the mobility in the arm is starting to return. It’s still sore, but the pain is diffusing out and is less intense than when it first happened. I’m hopeful that it’s going to heal up quickly. The whole ACL journey changed my perspective on injuries; a couple of weeks out with a sore shoulder is frustrating, but I’m very aware of how much worse it could have been.
As for the other skier, the Ski Patrol put out an alert based on the description I provided. While I know it’s unlikely that she was caught, she was wearing a fairly distinctive outfit so there is at least a chance. I’m not vindictive by nature, and if she’d just stopped to check that I was okay before she took off I would most likely have let it go. But since she clearly cared more about having her pass pulled than she did about the damage she’d caused to another human being, I really do hope that they found her and made her face up to the consequences of her actions.