The bad news is that the bone that I broke is in my neck.
Okay. Here's what happened. I went up to Whitefish, Montana to teach a mental performance clinic to the ski school, and while I was there I got to ski with the Mike Stief and his kids, which was awesome.
Ethan Stief is, as you would expect, a little ripper, at 12 years old, he's quite comfortable hucking himself off of 15 foot cliffs. As I'm preparing to compete in the Colorado Freeride Championships, I figured that a little freeskiing would be good for me, and chasing this nimble, Tigger-like kid all over Big Mountain seemed like a good idea.
We spent the morning hopping off of all the little hits and drops and basically having a ball. Then, the ante went up. Ethan dropped off a big rock, and I skied up behind him to look at it. He landed it clean, a little further out than I wanted to. I decided it looked good, and rolled off it, feeling happy and excited.
The transition was a bit abrupt, and I assumed that the snow was harder than it was, so I elected to come in at an angle closer to the ramp rather than really huck it and reach for a flat landing.
Turns out the snow was softer, WAY softer than I thought it was, and I stuck both the tips of my skis right into the snow below. WHAM, I went down, face first (and chin up) into the powder, booted out and my feet came up over my head. I flipped over, my face coming out last (and taking a really, really long time to come out.)
I laid there for a while seeing stars. Mike is a paramedic, and he was over at my side pretty quickly. "Gee, I wasn't sure your head was going to come out of the snow, Kate." he said.
I couldn't talk for a few minutes, I felt like all my systems were shut down and rebooting. I realized that my right arm was completely numb, and my neck, back and ribs were really hurting.
"Okay, just little movements, okay?" Mike said. I nodded slowly. I shook my head a tiny bit. I was okay. I sat in the snow for another fifteen minutes waiting for my senses to get back on line. I hadn't broken my neck. I hadn't broken anything, actually.
The rest of the day was a slow, confusing blur, we continued to ski, but way more conservatively. I didn't fall again, but I did find out that my pointer finger and my thumb were still numb on my right arm. By the end of the day, I felt like I was at about 70% of normal functioning, and the pain was starting to increase.
The next morning, I decided to go get an x-ray just in case. I spent the day doing errands and then went over to the urgent care center in Kalispell.
Turns out I did break something. Remember that car accident from two years ago? I have a bonespur on C-5 because of it. In hyper flexing my neck like that, on a disc that is already thin and compressed, I hit bone on bone and broke that bonespur clean off. Its now floating in my neck right in front of C-5.
There is some further slight subluxation of C-5, also as a result of the disc that is not the right shape or in the right place, allowing the bone to slide forward.
My flight got canceled due to fog, and I headed back up to the mountain the next day to get back on the horse. I was terrified to fall. I did three groomer runs, and then ventured into the off-piste, where I immediately hip checked (probably due to being so incredibly nervous) I barely tumbled and the movement of my head made my whole arm go numb again, and suddenly, it was back, and in screaming pain.
Oh, shit, I thought. I really did something bad. I'm hurt in a way that is not good. Now, normally, I am a very optimistic person, and it was occurring to me that this might be a situation where you can be as optimistic as you like, but you'd better also take into consideration the fact that you may be seriously hurt.
I wedged my way down the mountain and called it a day. I went into the Whitefish locker room to say thanks and goodbye, and was psyched to meet so many friendly and welcoming instructors.
The mountain is a truly special place, huge, open, with snow entombed trees on the top that the locals call "snow ghosts". The runs into the bowls remind me of the backside in Telluride, like a lift to the middle of nowhere.
The lodge boasts a huge pass through fireplace and enormous comfy chairs to stretch out in, the food is great and the skiing, if you can see where you are going, is phenomenal. I was sad to be leaving, and really bummed not to have a chance to explore the mountain more fully.
I came home and spent another two days off skis, laying on a heating pad and sleeping a lot. Then, it was time for a PSIA clinic that I needed to attend to prepare for the Rocky Mountain TA selection (clinician tryouts). More on that next!