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February 26, 2013
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On the hill: First one's free

SNOWMASS - Honestly, I didn't mind hitting that rock. You go up into backcountry-ish terrain like the Dikes, at Snowmass, on a day when a foot or so of powder has camouflaged the fact that it's been a low-snow season, you expect some contact between your snowboard and various hidden obstacles.

The second rock, that I minded. The one that made contact not with my board but my face. These two were like a well-oiled con-man duo, working in sync: Rock One stopped me abruptly, pitching me forward; Rock Two was there, perfectly placed and sharply pointed, waiting to gouge me.

Look at my face now - 11 stitches, two big gashes, black eye, bandages - and you'd assume there was a lot of pain involved. Truth is, there was almost no pain involved. (Man, do endorphins know how to do their job!) Before the right side of my face even finished ricocheting off the rock, my tongue was circling my mouth, taking an inventory of my teeth - all present and accounted for. I could see, I could move all body parts, and that foot-plus of soft powder wasn't a dream - this wasn't going to be horrific.

Apart from not being blinded or crippled, the best part was having two buddies close by. The Miracle Man and Howard let me know that I'd have whatever help I needed. They called ski patrol; they took on-site photos. Miracle sacrificed his neck gaiter to make a tourniquet. (My hat would have worked just as well; I'm pretty sure he was eager to show off his tourniquet-making skills.) Ski patroller Ryan Carlson appeared with bandages, words of reassurance (I liked the part where he told me, multiple times, that I was tougher than his average customer) - and, yes, a legal waiver, which I needed to sign if I was going to refuse a toboggan ride down. (I should have signed it in blood; there was plenty to go around, and that seems somehow appropriate to the task.) I signed - there was no way I was going to give Ryan a hard time, and there was no way, even dripping blood and glasses smashed, I was going to pass up a powder run.

Tip of the day: When in an emergency room, never, under any circumstances, say that you're free of pain or in any way indicate that things are hunky-dory. It's a sure way to get pushed to the back of the patient line. It was two hours before Stephen, the 26-year-old medical student, got around to sewing me up. He did a fine job.

Pain and discomfort were and remain minimal. I was already in the process of getting new eyeglasses. I did some beautiful laps in Hanging Valley and the Cirque before the whole what-have-you. Got some scars, a story to tell, memorable bonding time with Miracle and Howard. Missed most of the Nuggets game on TV, but I was well enough to go catch an impressive show by comedian Christopher Titus at the Wheeler Opera House.

I genuinely consider myself fortunate: another sweet day on the mountain.

stewart@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Feb 26, 2013 06:42AM Published Feb 26, 2013 02:03AM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.