I was sitting at the airport in denial, hoping that airplanes can fly straight through blizzards.
They cannot. Our flight was canceled, and the next one was two days later, which would cut deeply into the trip. After several hours, those of us stuck at the airport miraculously caught flights leaving later that day. Some lucked out on standby, while me and another person were able to take the seats of people who canceled their trips. We were on our way to Denver.
My friend and I were twelve hours behind schedule and the last ones to arrive at the cabin in Breckenridge, but we made it. There was fresh snow covering everything, a rare sight for a Texan, but there was no time to play. Our cozy beds were calling. We needed our energy in the days to come.
Two days later, we’re taking lifts up the beautiful snow-covered mountain, snowboards strapped to our left feet. Countless YouTube videos had prepared me for this moment. People say that everybody falls when they get off the lift for the first time, but I would be different. I would float off that mobile bench and blissfully slide atop the fresh powder. The moment for me to jump off comes and… I actually don’t remember what happened, but for the sake of the story and probability, I’ll say that I fell.
Minor setback. I got up and strapped my other foot onto the board. I stood up the way that the YouTube videos showed me, and I was ready. I gazed upon the slope before me, ready to conquer this mountain that had been calling me for the past two days. I slowly made my descent.
The next several hours were series of hard falls, some done intentionally to prevent a collision with a tree or person. I sat in the snow, cursing and punching it for doing this to me. The YouTube video made it look so easy. I considered signing up for lessons, but my friend who is a seasoned snowboarder gave me some pointers. Once again I stood up, determined not to let this mountain defeat me.
By the end of that day, I could leaf down the slope heel side without falling. The next day I tested my ability on the steepest of green (easiest) slopes. I flew down that mountain, still only on my heel side, but I was feeling confident. My goal was to move up to the blue slopes the next day, but I still had to get my toe side down, which I decided I would practice for the remainder of the day.
For those who don’t know, when you are on your toe side, your back is facing the bottom of the slope, so you are basically going down the mountain backwards, meaning that if you fall, you flip over and land on your back. This happened to me many times. I had to take my helmet off a few times in order to clear the holes of the snow that was packed in them from having fallen on my back and hitting my head so many times. I fought off my frustration, knowing that I would get it down. Little did I know that my zeal would be my downfall.
Once again, I found myself getting off the lift at the top of the slope, this time with ease. I felt that my boots could be a little bit tighter, but I wanted to waste no time getting back on the slope. It would have taken a few seconds to turn the knobs on my boots that tightened the straps, but instead, I specifically remember thinking these words right before what would be my last slope of the trip:
“My boots are tight enough.”
I started down the slope with exceptional speed. I was going quite fast, which was starting to scare me, but I thought it was time to put my toe side brake to the test. I turn, but I am not slowing down enough. I leaned even harder into the mountain to the point where my face was only a few feet from the snow. I could feel the snow being violently scraped by my board, yet it seemed to do nothing to slow me down until my board finally caught some snow that it could not move. My board stopped in its tracks, but I kept going. I flipped all the way over and landed onto my back harder than I ever had before.
I laid there for a few seconds before sitting up. My left ankle hurt, but not enough for me to stop. I stood up, and then it hurt enough for me to stop. I decided that my snowboarding endeavors would have to continue the next day, so I started walking down the slope. With each step, the pain grew more severe. I probably walked about ten or twenty feet before I had to sit down. I knew it was bad, but it couldn’t have been that bad. Snowboarding boots are incredibly rigid. They prevent any movement of the ankle. It’s pretty much impossible to break your ankle while wearing them.
Unless the boots aren’t tight enough.
Somebody passing by saw me hopelessly sitting there and went to get help. People on the lifts above me started to shout at me and ask if everything was okay. It was not too long before a worker came on skis, pulling a medical sled behind her. I laid on the bed of the sled, and the worker wrapped me in a yellow tarp. My face was still exposed, so I could see the hundreds of people who stared at me as we passed. It probably looked like she was relocating a corpse.
I arrive at the medical center. I was too banged up for them to do anything, so they were sending me down to the clinic in town. I was given the option of either walking to the bus or getting put in a gurney in the back of a van. My denial and pride led me to choose the walk to the bus, which lasted me about two steps.
After the van ride down the mountain, I found myself lying on one of the many beds at the busy Breckenridge medical clinic, awaiting a doctor to show me the results of my x-ray. My ankle was broken. They didn’t have any cast boots in my size, so they had to make a splint that I would not be able to take off until I got back home. But before that could happen, they obviously had to remove the boot I was still wearing. They had to pull my broken, swollen foot out of the very narrow, stiff hole of the snowboard boot. The pain was so excruciating that I made them cut me out of my sock.
Needless to say, the rest of the trip was not that great. I appreciate my friends’ efforts to try to pump some life back into me, but being on crutches at 10,000 feet makes you too exhausted to enjoy much. We left after a few days, and the next few weeks were Vicodin.
That whole experience played into a lot of fears I still have. Snowboarding was something I really wanted to do. At first I was really bad at it, but I worked past that, which is something I seldom do during the initial difficulties of any new challenge. I guess I could say that that is a victory in itself, but once I found out I was more capable, I set a higher goal which I was determined to reach. I fought so hard for it, but in the end I failed. I did. I was defeated, and it hurt both emotionally and physically.
I’ve been asked if I regret going on that trip or it I’m scarred for life. The answer to both is no. Would I do it again if I knew the outcome would be the same? Definitely not. But I can never know that, and assuming that I’ll fail at everything is keeping me from doing anything. This trip was two years ago, and my ankle is fully healed. It’s actually my good ankle now, and I’d definitely be willing to test it out on the slopes once again. I’d be putting myself in danger of more falls and risking more broken bones, but that’s the truth with anything we want to do. I will not be so easily discouraged, and I believe it will be worth it. It took me too long to realize that. God, help me.
Forth, and fear no darkness.
Arise, arise, riders of Theoden!
Spears shall be shaken. Shields shall be splintered.
A sword day, a red day, ere there sun rises.