December 14, 2006
Aspen, CO ColoradoJust a week after a high-speed ski fall scored me an ambulance ride to a CAT scan machine, I was back at the scene of the crime. This time looking down a long stretch of the same kind of corduroy that usually has me pointing them straight downhill and screaming at Mach 10.But not today.The doctor told me to take a week off of any brain-jostling activity after my fall, and it took just that long for the headache and confusion from the concussion to go away.In the interim I went helmet shopping, and after a frustrating day in Glenwood Springs looking for that perfect glass-slipper fit – the closest I came was some extra-large number that made me look like Darth Vader – a friend gave me his old helmet (perfect), and I was set.But after I got cleared and had the right headgear, I still didn’t rush to the mountain. I have to admit it: I was scared.Had I lost my mojo? Drained my chi? Moxy no more?I’ve personally benefited from the desperate yard sales of whitewater kayakers who have that one bad experience on the river and sell all their gear. Was that crash the end of skiing for me?Only one way to find out.I felt shaky on a casual run down a groomed cruiser from the gondola to the F.I.S. lift at Ajax Thursday morning, but I shrugged it off.Then I stood at the top of Ruthie’s and froze. I remembered all the times I’d tucked a whole mountain without blinking or when I’d hit the kind of hummock that nearly took me out last week and just pre-jumped it and never looked back. But there I was – paralyzed at the top of a wide-open intermediate run.”If you look at the rocks, you’ll hit them,” a wise old kayaker once told me. And it’s a good metaphor for life, I think. Worry is like asking for bad things to happen. Fear snowballs on itself. If I think about crashing and worry about falling on my head again, I probably will, I thought.I took a deep breath and pointed them straight.Maybe I let my skis slide a little more than usual, and did the occasional hockey stop turn instead of carving hard and fast, but after a few runs it started to feel familiar.A slower, safer skier with a humbling knowledge of mortality was born.