Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate |

Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate

Alison Berkley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

I had a little snowboarding mishap Monday and hit a tree. Or I should say, the tree hit me. The tree seemed fine, not a scratch.

When I saw that thing coming at me, knowing I couldn’t stop to avoid hitting it, I didn’t see my life flash before my eyes. I didn’t think about the people I love or about what might happen.

I thought, “Oh, great. Now that I don’t have any health insurance …”

It was just the other day my friend Cathy and I were talking about that very topic.

“Aren’t you scared? What if something happened,” she asked.

“No, not really. No. I know I should be, but I’m not. I had health insurance and spent like thousands of dollars and it didn’t pay for dick,” I said. I felt the need to edit myself, but as usual, I ignored the urge. I knew what I was saying didn’t make me sound like a good person, like saying “I don’t like animals” or “I don’t want to breast feed.”

It’s true that I did have health insurance for the past five years. I watched it increase, not gradually, but rapidly, from $170/month to $490/month for what seemed like no reason. Still, it made me feel good on the rare occasion I had to go to the doctor.

I thought it was so cool that when I did need to go to the doctor, I was a responsible member of society, toting one of those laminated insurance card things that I’d proudly present to the receptionist on my way out.

It turns out my little insurance policy didn’t cover much of anything at all, like all that lab work I had to see if I could still get knocked up or not. If I would’ve known that, I would’ve come up with some excuse to get a prescription for Botox, or said I had migraine headaches that warranted a medical marijuana card or something legit like that.

After all that, and all that money the insurance company basically stole from me for this insanely high monthly premium, I get this letter in the mail saying they’re going out of business. Instead of going with some other lame-ass insurance company, they referred me to for the same insanely high premium.

I let my policy lapse.

“I’d be terrified not to have health insurance,” Cathy said. “I mean, what if something happened? What if I got hurt skiing or something?”

“Yeah, that’s true. But I don’t ski like you do,” I said. Or maybe I thought it but didn’t say it out loud. “It’s not like I’m hitting the park or doing first descents at this stage of the game. I’m just making turns.”

So of course this tree decided to come and attack me out of nowhere a few days later just to make a point.

It was that big powder day, the one on Monday that everyone was freaking out about. It was one of those perfect bluebird days that mocks you for staying inside. It’s just like when you were a kid and everyone’s taunting you to ride your bike over the jump your brother made in the backyard out of dirt even though you know you’re gonna eat it if you do. But you have to because everyone else is doing it, and then you get the old, “If your brother told you to jump off a bridge, would you do that too?” lecture from your mom when you go running into the house bleeding.

Ry went up for a few lunch runs, so I figured the fresh air would do me some good. We were coming down Jackpot and I saw this untracked patch of snow, just glistening in the midday sun. You would think I would know by now that when you see untracked powder at one o’clock in the afternoon there is a reason.

Like, when I lived in Jackson Hole, I would always get sucked into these untracked powder fields in Casper Bowl that inevitably lead to exposure I’d have to hike out of. Those were some of my most terrifying days, crawling through thigh deep powder with my board off, trying not to slide off a cliff.

Still not having learned my lesson, I threw a heelside turn into that untracked snow like I was heli boarding in Alaska. Instead of floating through bottomless powder, I hit the reef underneath – frozen death cookies with a deceptively thin layer of dust on top – and went “ass over teakettle” (as Ryan likes to say). I landed on my butt and saw that big trunk coming at me, so I stuck my legs out in front of me to brace myself.

Then, wham! My left foot hit first and my stiff, straight leg and adrenaline did nothing to cushion the impact. I could see it in my mind’s eye: My hip joint, that ball-and-socket joint, jamming together and pushing up on my spine.

I sat in the snow breathing hard like I was about to have a baby. Ryan stood over me, trying to do the right thing, remaining calm and trying not to laugh.

“Can you stand up?” he said.

I thought about my conversation with Cathy and the dollar signs and the number of zeros that would appear on my medical bill.

“No, I’m okay,” I said, and propped myself up. I felt sick but managed to make my way down the mountain. Once I took my board off, walking proved to be even more difficult. But I didn’t break anything. I could walk and talk. I was lucky to be alive. On that very same day, others wouldn’t be so lucky.

And it made me realize how fortunate I am. My life isn’t hard – but damn, the trunk of that tree sure is.