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Wipeout at Whistler

Vibe
posted: 04/20/2001

Growing up in Colorado and reading SKIING magazine, I polished my skiingabilities in the hope that one day I would be able to actually ski down theslopes at the kind of resort frequently captured in SKIING's photographs. So now, as a college student, I found myself at the mountain about which the greatest North American skiers dream: Whistler/Blackcomb.

Everything you've heard is true: the nightlife is fantastic, the girl to guy ratio is definitely in favor of us girls, the men are good looking, and the drinking age is only 19. Needless to say, the only thing left to experience was the slopes, the north side chutes and the knee-deep powder. Sounds great, right? Like just another dreamy story, but wait....

Imagine this... my second run of the day, skiing alone until meeting up with somefriends at lunch, attempting to drop into a bowl from a remote chute,falling, losing both skis and poles, sliding down the slope at an increasingly hazardous rate, attempting to grab a tree to slow myself down in order to avoid the now inevitable fate below me. Then... I leave the snow, fall over some rocks, make the initial smack with my head, all the while continuing to tumble and slide.

According to the ski patrol, I fell 100 feet at an 80-degree pitch over a rocky cliff. I never actually lost consciousness, but the memory is somewhat vague.According to the reenactment by the ski patrol and the crazy snowboarderswho found me, I finally ended my ill-fated descent in a tree hole and eventuallycrawled out 50 yards into an opening and began stumbling dazedly down the hill. Imagine trying to pick out a good line to make your way down and seeing a girl staggering down ahead of you with no skis or poles. From above, I apparently looked as if I was sporting some "killer red dreads" according to my snowboarding rescuer, but as the distance between us lessened, he realized that what he thought were my dreads was actually a constant stream of blood.

From there on, it's more or less standard. The ski patrol arrived about 35 minutes after my initial fall, started an IV, issued some oxygen and strapped me into theever-exciting sled. We -- or should I say they -- only skied down about 200 yards before we were met by a helicopter. This experience is still foggy in my mind.

After all this, about two hours after the fall, I eventually made it to a hospital in Vancouver. I received dozens of stitches and had a rather large basal skull fracture, a tear in my meninges (the protective layer of my brain), a ruptured ear drum, and acerebral spinal fluid leak from my brain. But after five days in the hospital,things are going well, and I can say that I still have the desire to ski again.

So, the moral of the story is: live to ski, but do it with a bunch of buddies, andwatch out for your head. Oh yeah... any recommendations for good helmets?

Cristin Shea
Lakewood CO
Age 19

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