Thin air encompasses me as I commence the final day of skiing at Vail, Colorado. Seven days of skiing elapse rather painlessly; I fall occasionally but an evening in the Jacuzzi soothes my minor aches. Closing time approaches on the final day of our trip as I prepare myself for the final run of the vacation. Fresh off the ski lift, I coast toward the junction of trails on the unoccupied expert face of the mountain. After a moment of thought, I confidently select a narrow trail so steep that only the entrance can be seen from my viewpoint.
A blast of adrenaline charges throughout my body as I experience the initial drop. My body’s weight shifts mechanically, cutting the snow in a practiced rhythm. The trail curves abruptly and I advance toward a shaded region of the mountain. Suddenly, my legs chatter violently, scraping against the concealed ice patches that pepper the trail. After overcompensating from a nearly disastrous slip, balance fails and my knees buckle helplessly. In a storm of powder snow and ski equipment, body parts collide with nature. My left hand plows forcefully into ice, cracking painfully at the wrist. For an eternity of 30 seconds, my body somersaults downward, moguls of ice toy with my head and further agonize my broken wrist. Ultimately veering into underbrush and pine trees, my cheeks burn, my broken wrist surging with pain. Standing up confused, I attempt climbing the mountain but lose another 20 feet to the force of gravity.
All alone, I glance downhill and notice my left ski ensnared in distant undergrowth. One of my ski poles lies casually near the summit, trapped in a mogul crevice. The lonely winter atmosphere bestows little comfort; I am aware that the trail will stay empty until eight o’clock the next morning and therefore undertake immediate action. As I painfully peel off my left glove to inspect the damage, the monotone drone of the ski lift ceases. I stand up and detach my right ski, then ascend the powdery snowdrifts that flank the trail in search of my missing equipment. Upon attaining the altitude of my missing pole, I re-enter the steep slope.
Digging into the snow with my boots while stabilizing my body with the uninjured arm, I inch across the hill, lose my foothold, and plummet downward. Repeating this process for the second time, I succeed in grasping the pole. After fastening skis to boots, I begin the multi-mile journey to the ski lodge. My mother meets me and learns of my adventure, I observe a reflection of my pain in her face. We pack the car and inquire concerning the location of a clinic. On the way to the emergency room I yearn for sleep. While the nurse wraps my arm in fiberglass casting material, I anticipate next years’ adventure.