“Are you Mr. Stockdale? We need you to come with us.” These probably weren’t the first words that my stepfather wanted to hear, especially from a ski patrol official, whose job it is to drag injured snow-sporters off of the ski hill. I was a half-hour late in meeting him to go home, so it couldn’t be good.
At the time, I was on my high school’s ski team, an eager freshman. After practice, I decided to take a couple of extra runs with my teammate, Luke Dickow. The first and second runs were uneventful, but rather fun. However, with five minutes to go, we crammed in one more. Unfortunately, when things go wrong, it always seems to be on the last one of the day.
We zipped down the hill, and for whatever reason thought it was a fantastic idea to take a closed area for the last stretch. The minds of teenage boys are infallible. Even better, my equipment was bought heavily used. My bindings, which held my boots to the skis, had seen better days. The trail itself would have been doable, though, had they been in decent shape.
As we continued onto the trail, there were a myriad of ice chunks strewn across the hill, for it had not yet been groomed. For the invincible teens that we were, nothing could go wrong. How could it? It was just one run. Roughly halfway down the hill, a rather large chunk of ice escaped my attention, and, as I hit it, there was that oddly serene lucidity that occurs as you can only stare at the quickly approaching ground.
As I fell, I noticed that my skis had separated themselves from my feet, which meant a solid tumble was ahead. I hit the ground soon thereafter, and regained my senses a short distance from the fall. Oddly enough, the first thing I noticed was my season pass plus its strap, which was previously wound around my leg, a few feet up the hill. Luke grabbed it and brought it down to see if I was okay.
I grabbed the pass from him, and found that the pass card itself was sheared cleanly in two. It was an oddity to be sure. I stuffed it into my pocket in preparation to continue down the hill. Luke then pointed to my leg, and drew my attention to the dark, wet spot around my knee. I couldn’t feel anything out of the ordinary, so it was quite the surprise. Upon closer inspection, there was a clean slice through my snow pants, right around where my pass had been sitting. It at least explained that mystery.
Luke then declared that he was going to get ski patrol and raced down the remainder of the hill, telling me to wait for him. He did not return within a few minutes, and in the meantime, I sat and checked the damage. I couldn’t properly see anything with shredded snow pants in the way, but I did notice a glint of red upon the edge of my right ski. It turns out that sharpening them that afternoon, which gives the advantage on the race course, did not play out in my favor that day.
I at least had a pretty good idea of what had happened, but I also noticed that the patch of red upon my pants had grown much larger. Luke had still not yet returned, and so I stood up in preparation to go myself. Had I not ended up having nerve damage, I probably would have quickly sat down soon thereafter. It is truly a wonder what the absence of pain will do.
Once my things, which were scattered around the area, were gathered, I popped my ski back in to coast down the hill. I was again in marvel at the fact that I was able to do it without any pain whatsoever. At the bottom of the hill I spotted a ski patrol officer, which led me to wonder where on earth Luke had gone. I limped over to him, and asked him to take a look at my knee, because I thought that it was hurt.
He sat me down upon the nearest bench, took one look at it up close, and quickly declared that he needed to bring me to the ski patrol hut immediately. I was then dragged via sled to the hut, where they sat me on a bench. It seemed that the bleeding had gotten worse. They slapped a tourniquet on my leg after cutting the leg of my pants off just above the knee. I was quite upset about that. It was odd to fixate particularly on that, but I thought little of it at the time.
It was also at this time that the aforementioned ski patroller had gone to fetch my stepfather, after I provided him with the description and license plate of his car. As he arrived, I almost felt guilty for the look on his face. Who wants to find their child on a bench covered in blood? I still am sorry for that particular bit of stress. Otherwise, I was in quite good humor. It could have been the blood loss, but I wasn’t worried about it. That probably was from the blood loss.
I was brought to the hospital soon after, for the ski patrol had little to stop the bleeding. It was a particularly uneventful night after that, funnily enough. It took 17 stitches to get my knee sewn back together, which I unfortunately did feel. I vividly remember yelling at the doctor for missing the area of my knee that did need anesthetic as he stitched it back up.
Looking back at it all, there really was nothing to learn from it, minus the fact that I now know a surefire way to give my parents the closest thing to a heart attack I can think of. It was a freak accident, and while it was one that I was lucky to ski away from, it never stopped me from going back on the hill. Within two months, I was back at it, albeit with new bindings. I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of doing the thing that I loved most.