If a skier falls on a slope and nobody sees … | PostIndependent.com

If a skier falls on a slope and nobody sees …

One morning when the world was new, Hal and I raced through the trees, leaped off a precipice, cleared a ditch, and landed in a powder-filled gully. No, we didn’t stand up and ski away, but we survived. What I recollect most clearly about that moment was my sense of invincibility. If I could jump 68 feet on skis, I could do anything.

More than a quarter-century later, you’d be amazed at what’s open at Snowmass. You’d better read the signs before you venture onto the most radical slopes, because we have a few runs that feature “mandatory air.” You have to leave the snow to get to the bottom.

The other day, J.B. said, “Eddie, you and Elk Camp Bob should ski Stihletto.”

I said, “In your dreams.”

J.B. said, “No, seriously, you guys can do it. Ski to the big tree halfway down and just lower yourself off the little cliff with the knotted rope that’s tied to the tree. Take your rock skis.”

“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” I said to Bob when we got to the tree. Bob, who is even older than I am, said, “I can’t either.”

The rope worked OK. We just leaned out and kind of hopped down the rocks, until we landed in the powder at the bottom. I won’t say we looked very graceful. I wish I’d had a video camera.

We have a special award called the “crash pin,” given to any patroller who splatters and spreads his or her gear across the hill. You wear it until somebody relieves you of the honor. Festooned with pink ribbons, it reads, “No. 1 Crash” in big letters. Some of the young guys consider wearing the crash pin the ultimate humiliation.

When I wore the pin earlier this winter, not one but two beautiful women said, “What’s with the pin?” Ordinarily, attractive women don’t go out of their way to start conversations with me. I told the bachelors, “If I were single, I’d never let go of that thing.”

You can be minding your own business just trying to find the easy way down and still get in trouble out there on the double black diamonds. One day I skied through Hanging Valley on my way to deliver some honey bears to Cafe Suzanne. As I cut across the top of East One, I crossed my tips and twisted out of one ski. I launched down the slope and immediately thought, “Well, how far can I possibly slide?”

The snow wasn’t that hard, but I began tumbling. I remember thinking, “If I can get my one ski downhill and across the slope, maybe that’ll stop me.” When I did this, the ski popped off. Now I hurtled face-first through the moguls. I could see trees at the bottom and wondered if I’d stop in time, or if I might somehow maneuver around them.

Just as I finally stiff-armed myself to a stop, I watched a ski go sliding past me, then fly 10 feet straight up in the air and land tail-first upright in the snow.

When I picked myself up, my poles were gone. The one ski was 15 yards below me. I hoped the other was still at the top of the slope. I still had the honey bears.

The crash pin rules state that the fall has to be “witnessed.” If you crash while skiing alone, or if your skiing buddy is your good buddy, your crash never happened. Those are the rules. I didn’t make them up.

As I began the long hike back up to retrieve my gear, I could see from the Headwall all the way to Roberto’s. The coast was clear. There wasn’t another soul in Hanging Valley.

” Peach Valley beekeeper Ed Colby says ibuprofen is an old patroller’s best friend. Ed’s e-mail: esc@sopris.net.

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