Wow, did that just happen?
That was my initial thought when I was lying on my back, halfway under a snowmobile, staring up at the blue sky and trying desperately to get oxygen back into my lungs right after the air that previously was there got rapidly and forcefully expelled.
One minute before that, I was snapping photos, enjoying a stunningly beautiful view on a perfect winter day in Northern Utah, and marveling at the fact that nobody in our group had ventured up to this amazing vista. Two minutes before that, I was playing in powder and wondering if I could possibly burp the Summit 800 I was riding up a particularly steep hill to my right. Ten minutes before that, I left our group and our guide for some solo exploration. What could possibly go wrong?
Let me back up to the beginning. This scene played itself out in January 2014, when then-Managing Editor Andy Swanson and I were riding out of Beaver Creek Lodge near Logan, Utah.
Andy and others in our group had parked with the guide in a meadow after playing for awhile. Being an anti-social jerk (actually, being a powder-starved Upper Midwesterner), I wasn’t in the mood to conversate – I tugged the rope and left the group in my snowdust. I surfed through the meadow, climbed a nearby hillside, found a couple of knobs to jump over and generally was having a great time.
Off to the right, I spotted a steeper hillside that was still untracked. I attacked it and found a relatively narrow, north-south ledge at the top. I hung a quick right, parked on the ledge, and soaked up the awesome scenery that surrounded me. Leaving the sled, I walked along the ledge to its ending point and was able to see the riding group far below me. They were tiny little dots, and I thought I was king of the world. The pictures I took didn’t do justice the view I was enjoying.
Standing up there alone, it was close to perfection – the brilliant blue skies highlighting the deep green conifers, reddish-brown rocky outcroppings on the mountainsides and the intense white of the fresh snow. There were no deadlines, no stresses, not a care in the world.
Finally, a chilling breeze and a fear of being left behind forced me back to my machine. I started it, stood with both feet on the left side running board and accelerated along the ridge as I looked for a safe route down. Then suddenly I was unexpectedly catapulted onto my back, my own machine half ran over me and I had a sharp pain in my upper left chest area. I didn’t even have time to swear!
I wish somebody had video of the incident, because I’d love to see exactly what happened, but after refilling my lungs and regaining my composure, I scooted out from beneath the sled and investigated. The quick stop was created by a rocky peak that had been partially uncovered by the strong winds at this high point. With me standing far-forward on the left running board, when that ski encountered that squared edge, the sled stopped immediately and I was pitched. Best as I can tell, I cartwheeled, came in contact with the front suspension, then got punched in the upper chest by the sled’s bumper after the bucking sled somehow now cleared the rock.
ESince I’m no spring chicken (and probably not even a summer chicken anymore, whatever that means!), the surprising vault left me with sore muscles, purplish bruises and a battered ego.
My only saving grace? No witnesses. And we all know that it’s debatable whether a dismount without witnesses ever really happened, right? I dusted myself off, remounted the sled, found a safe route down and rejoined the group. All was fine, until somebody noted that my left ski was running about 6 inches rearward of my right ski.
“Whoa – what happened to your A-arm? The upper is right up against the shock!”
Busted. Yes, I guess it did happen.
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