Monday, November 21, 2005


The most popular posts on this blog generally seem to be the ones where I tell about some misadventure I've gotten myself into. With that in mind, here's what happened to me when I was skiing on Saturday.

We spent the morning doing lots of boring technique drills. After lunch, a small group of us went out free-skiing. The other guys still had their race skis on but I had on my big fat powder skis, so I decided to go ski some bump runs by myself. There was still quite a bit of soft, fresh snow everywhere from the storms last week, and I was having a blast. I'm not much of a mogul skier, but I was really getting into it. On my third run, I was skiing a steep, narrow run called Outrigger when I misjudged a bump and landed pretty far forward on the tip of my ski. As I landed, the rear screws holding the heelpiece of my binding onto my ski ripped out, my ski fell off and tumbled down the hill, and the heelpiece landed a few feet away from me. I bounced upright almost immediately and sat there with no ski, looking around the vacant run and surveying the situation. I was more annoyed than distraught — I would probably have to get a ride down in a ski patrol sled instead of getting to finish my run.

A few people soon skied by me, and one woman skied right by my heelpiece. "Is this yours?" she asked. Meanwhile, a guy on a snowboard rode by my ski. Putting together what had happened, he took off his board and began hiking back up the hill to bring me my ski. Strangers are really nice to people they perceive as being in trouble, so I didn't bother telling either one of them that it would do me no good to have my ski and binding back, since I wouldn't be able to use them unless I had a couple Helicoils and a drill to fix the binding with. I thanked the guy and asked him if he would go tell ski patrol to come and help me out. He said he would, and took off.

For the next twenty or thirty minutes, I sat there in the middle of the run holding my ski and broken binding, admiring the mountain panorama, blue skies, and the towns of Winter Park, Fraser, and Tabernash stretched out in front of me along U.S. Route 40. People skied by occasionally, and some of them stopped to ask if I was OK. I smiled and said yes, explaining that I was just waiting for a ride down from ski patrol. Eventually the guy who had originally alerted ski patrol for me rode by again

At last a ski patroller in his fifties, with a white beard, picked his way down through the bumps to where I was sitting. He wasn't a great skier. I told him I was glad to see him and tried to explain what had happened. By then I had realized that I wouldn't need a sled ride down if I could get him to ski down to the locker room, find another one of my skis, and bring it up to me. I managed to convince him to do this after he had radioed his supervisor for permission, and he took off down the run with my ski and broken binding.

Two more ski patrollers soon approached, and I started explaining that I was all set, or at least would be as soon as the first guy got back. They seemed confused. "Or did you not hear about this on your radio?" I asked. They shook their heads; I guess they hadn't been paying attention. They continued on their way. I went back to admiring the view and started trying to think about how I could use this misadventure in one of the speeches I'm going to have to give in front of the employees of my new sponsor. If there were any didactic life lessons to be gleaned here, they were escaping me at the moment. It grew colder, and eventually the sun had moved enough that it left the trail cast in shade. I shivered a little.

Twenty minutes went by, then thirty. Going inside to get a ski should take at the most three minutes, and the lift ride up only takes about twelve, so I was starting to wonder. After thirty-five minutes he finally showed up — with the same ski, the original binding reattached. He explained that he hadn't been able to find my other skis, so he had the comp center ski shop fix the broken one; that's what had taken so long. The issue now was whether the repair would hold long enough for me to make it down the rest of the mogul field. I picked my way down with the ski patroller following me, and eventually made it to the safety of a groomed run. I thanked him while internally feeling annoyed at his incompetence; I probably should have been more grateful. After all, he saved my ass.

1 comment:

Richie Jay said...

One lesson, of course, is that those pin-locked bindings really don't release under any circumstances--they just tear right off the darn ski. I'm not sure if this is reassuring or not. Perhaps it's evocative of the expression: a wheel is only as strong as its weakest spoke. In this case, your bindings are invincible, but the binding-ski connection is not quite as good.

The second might be: never trust a ski patroller in his or her fifties, but that would seriously piss off my mom (a ski patroller in her fifties).

And lastly, something about the kindness of strangers, though kindness and competency are certainly not the same thing.