Nicht Franz Klammer
December 5, 2006
Since I’ve gotten back into skiing here in Aspen after a long hiatus I’ve been going hard and fast on the hill most mornings and they’ve been calling me “Franz Klammer” around the office.I’ve never worn a helmet while skiing – and believed helmets might be OK for kids and beginners, but not for me (and especially not on my current budget). But that all changed Sunday.I was making wide GS turns on the fresh corduroy of the Big Burn with three friends on the cold, sunny morning. Not even a hint of ice, and just heaven to this recovering East Coast skier.Then it happened.I rounded the top of a crest about halfway down Dallas Freeway and took to the air, completely lost control and landed backwards – butt, back, neck and head in one snap and I was out cold.I don’t remember much from there. My friends came down to clean up the yard sale and I skied to the bottom of the run. I wanted to take another run, they said, but my friend Chris convinced me otherwise and we stopped at the midway lodge.No sooner did I sit down at the table when I said, “I don’t feel so good” and my eyes rolled in the back of my head, I slumped in my chair and started to convulse, they said.I came to and didn’t know the day or date, and that’s when Snowmass ski patrollers took over. Oxygen. Backboard. Neck brace. The next thing I know, I’m gliding down the mountain on a sled.The first patroller on the scene was incredible. She made all the right moves to stabilize me and skied alongside and talked with me all the way down – and I have to admit she had kind of a Florence Nightingale effect.Then the ambulance. They cut one of my favorite old sweatshirts to bits, plugged in an IV and got me to the hospital all in a matter of 20 minutes from the moment I collapsed.But on the ride I started thinking. I was in pain. Is my neck broken? Am I going to be OK? While everyone assured me that stabilization was just procedure, there was no relief from my worst-case scenario imagination until the CAT scan and X-ray results came back negative – no broken bones, just a concussion and a case of whiplash.I am grateful for the excellent Snowmass patrollers – when something happens, they come out of the woodwork. To the fastidious ambulance crew, the friendly doctor and folks at the hospital, and to my good friends – Chris, Justin and Bart – for being there and making sure I was OK afterward (not to mention cracking jokes and keeping me laughing). I will be helmet-shopping this week and out on the slopes by the weekend if my neck stops aching. And the most important lesson: I am not Franz Klammer.The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.