May 1 2017

Kevin Edwards 1957-2017

At CMH K2 12/29/2015

I lost my ski partner last week, in the same place I met him originally, deep in the woods. I met Kevin in 2001 when I was skiing alone deep in some remote woods at the Keystone ski area. As I was coming out of the woods I saw a man below coming out of the same area so I decided to introduce myself. We got on the lift together and discovered that we lived less than a half mile apart in Boulder, had a kid the same age and were both powder fanatics. We proceeded to ski another 3 runs in the same area and cemented the deal that became the basis of our relationship. I would show him where the powder was and he would tow me out of the flats. 

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Kevin and his posse at Great Canadian Heliskiing 4/1/2005

Kevin with his two favorite guides (to his immediate left) Greg Golovach and Terry Makos 4/1/2005

By the time I met Kevin he was already a heliskiing legend. The two photos above are from an event honoring his 100th day of heliskiing at Great Canadian Heliskiing where they bestowed on him a pair of custom skis for his achievement. Every year Kevin would put together a group of friends and bring them to this heli operation located between Golden, BC and Rogers Pass for a week of heliskiing. When I met him that first day at Keystone, we hadn’t been on the lift for more than 5 minutes before he started telling me how I had to join him up there.  Besides all the friends he brought with him he also became very close to the guides who worked there and became lifelong friends with them as well.

Kevin’s favorite form of transportation

Young and happy!

Kevin lived for those weeks in British Columbia. As he often described it, his life was 51 weeks of anticipation and one week of bliss! Kevin showed so many folks the joy of powder skiing and introduced me to so many kindred spirits. While the skiing was always phenomenal, the camaraderie was even better – fabulous dinners with good friends where we gave each other shit in between reliving just how fantastic the day had been.


Never without a big smile in the mountains!

Leading the way!

Faster than a speeding bullet…


Showing us all how it’s properly done…

By 2008 I was on my 4th trip to GCH with Kevin and company and that was a particularly bountiful year as you can tell by watching the videos below

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The video talent after a long day in the field…

Kevin with the man who led us to all those goodies and shot those videos!

Meanwhile back on the home front (Colorado) I decided to return the favor by introducing Kevin to my favorite powder mecca – Wolf Creek. From then on the Wolf became our sacred place – the place where we could always go to worship at the alter of deep powder – a few shots from one of our prayer sessions are below…

Up on Knife Ridge

Pure bliss going down…


and deeper…

Kevin was the one person I could always count on to make the 9 hour round trip drive to Wolf for what I liked to call “48 hours of powder”. We’d go a couple of times a year and hike the ridge lines that surround the ski area – getting fresh tracks all day. The video below is from President’s Day Weekend in 2011 and what a typical two day trip was like for us…

So every year we would plan a trip to BC – we started moving around and checking out other places and bringing our crew with us. What we soon discovered was that the guides moved around too so every where we went we would be greeted by familiar faces.

Lunch in the Valhallas…

followed by some powder turns…

and an end of the day group portrait…

when the light was just perfect

In 2012 we decided to go back to Great Canadian for one last trip and boy was that a good decision. Once again led by the incomparable Greg Golovach we enjoyed 5 fabulous days as evidenced by the video below…

I’d follow these two just about anywhere…

I must admit that I occasionally cheated on Kevin and in 2011 was lured to Haines, Alaska by my other good heli buddy David Cole. It took awhile but I finally convinced Kevin there was more to skiing than trees so in 2013 he joined our AK crew for the first time. And of course he took to it like a fish to water…

There’s that grin again…


In to the steeps…


with the AK crew

After that trip the crews began to merge and we ended up with what I called the core four – me, Kevin, David and Aaron Suzuki – four guys who could easily be convinced to go anywhere and everywhere as long as there was powder to be had…

Was it something he ate?

Our first trip together was to Revelstoke, BC where after a couple of days on the hill we headed out to Eagle Pass to ski with Scotty Newsome, our old guide from SnowwaterSONY DSC

From there it was on to Valdez, Alaska where we had a most unfortunate incident. To make a long story short, due to an unexpected cornice collapse, Aaron, I and one of our guides fell 1200 feet down a mountainside. Aaron and the guide sustained minor injuries but I unfortunately turned my leg all the way around and tore every ligament in my left knee. Kevin wrote a long piece about this trip and the meaning of faith which is worth reading in retrospect. 

Kevin at the bustling Valdez airport

and the equally busy Chugach Range

One year and 100+ PT appointments later I got back on my board and headed back to BC with the gang and sampled a CMH experience at their K2 Rotor Lodge and of course, Kevin was there.

Bonding with Aaron

Tearing it up with that big smile

and mixing with the rest of the riff raff

And earlier this year, we met up with our old friends and guides Greg and Terry at Kingfisher Heliskiing and had ourselves a most joyful reunion.

Ever seen this posse before?

or this smiling face?

or the one ski trick Kevin knew how to do?

So up till now, this post has read like a most pleasant travelogue but unfortunately it does not have a happy ending. Last Friday, April 28th, while skiing in the woods with me at Loveland, something happened – (amended note – coroner now says cause of death “heart failure” from enlarged heart which is a known issue with endurance athletes – he was a triathlete) not sure exactly what and may never know but the end result is that Kevin is no longer with us. I can not tell you how sorry I am I was not able to help him when he needed me most. We were ski partners for 15+ years and chased powder all over North America together. He was there at both my highest and lowest moments and I’d like to think I helped him through some tough times but for the most part he led a charmed life on the slopes which all came to a terrible end last week. Kevin was a great guy, who made people laugh, helped everyone he could and was an inspiration to us all. I can not believe I will never share another run with him again or hear him give me shit about my liberal leanings.

Right before the last run of his life

I am going to miss Kevin so much. I was so lucky to have him as my ski partner over all these years. He pulled me out of so many flat spots both literally and figuratively. He was beloved by so many and the first to pitch in when anyone needed some help. I can not believe he is gone but if there is a heaven I know he’s skiing deep powder right now. Goodnight sweet prince…

Jan 15 2017

Return of the Fantastic Four

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp

Since the unfortunate and abrupt ending to my last trip to Alaska I have not had the great pleasure of skiing with what I call the core four – that is is me and the only three guys I know that have just as bad a powder addiction as I do. We have done numerous trips together to both British Columbia and Alaska and except for our misfortune in Valdez we have always had a fabulous time riding together. So when my favorite sherpa Kevin started raving about a new operation he found in the legendary Monashee Range, it didn’t take much convincing to get the band back together.

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

The first landing in the early morning light is a instant reminder of how beautiful it is high up in the mountains and how lucky we are to be there. The ghost trees are particularly stunning and other worldly. 

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

And then it’s time to play follow the leader…

As usual British Columbia has had a ton of early season snow so our only concern was the predicted sub zero temperatures which fortunately had passed by the time we got there. Instead we were treated to classic BC conditions – a deep base covered with a minimum of a foot of fresh wherever we went which got deeper and deeper as the week progressed.

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kevin in his natural habitat

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

David getting buried

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Aaron finding his bliss..

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Rippin time

The Monashees are famous for their old growth forest and amazing tree skiing and certainly our experience did nothing to dispel that truism. Besides providing a natural slalom course, the trees help keep the snow in pristine condition by blocking the wind and letting the snow pile up for us powder carnivores. So while the upper exposed slopes might be a little wind affected and only have a surface powder layer, the trees are invariably soft and deeeeeeeep.

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

One of the big boys…

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Not just tree skiing

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Oh chute!

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Quick, our guide’s getting away…

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

on his tail

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

oh, what a beautiful morning…

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

now there’s proper technique

But as you can see from the photos above there was a wide variety of terrain to keep us entertained. From tight chutes to long powder stuffed meadows there was big fun around every corner. And of course all of it had natural features to play in and jump off. And since the landings are all deep and soft, the temptation is hard to resist.

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

And the man who lead us to all this glory

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Our fearless guide, Matt

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

showing us how it’s done

Of course none of this is possible without a great operation making it happen. In this case it was Kingfisher Heliskiing whose entire staff treated us like royalty and made our every wish their command. Our guide Matt Devlin, whose attitude is best summed up by his photo above, delivered the goods run after run with a smile permanently etched on his face (not surprising considering what we had at our disposal).

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

the long commute from our lodging to the helipad…

And beyond the great skiing, delicious meals, comfy accommodations and toasty hot tub that Kingfisher provided there’s simply just the incredible scenery everywhere you look.

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

It goes without saying that the hardest part of a helitrip is leaving, especially when it’s snowing hard which is exactly what happened on our last day.

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

Do we really have to leave?

The four shots above were taken on our last run and as you can see it was dumping! This would also be a good time to thank Kevin for all the fabulous photos he took (which you can click on to see larger) which are the majority of the action shots in this post. 

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

How we all felt about this trip

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

nothing like riding with good friends

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

and with all this bounty

Kingfisher Heliskiing - Monashee Range

no wonder his smile’s so big

As always we shot a ton of video and like last year I’m just going to post a tease until I have the time and energy to go through all the footage. It was a fabulous trip with great friends and marvelous conditions so until I see them again, here’s a tribute to the Fantastic Four – thank you guys!!!




Jan 16 2016

Back in the Heli Again…

CMH K2 transport ship

Sure beats Uber…

After my accident in Valdez, one of the questions people most frequently asked me was whether I would ever heliski again. For me, the accident had less to do with heliskiing than with the inherent risks involved in riding big mountains. The big question for me was whether I’d be physically able to ride again at all, not where I would do so if I could. So once the docs gave me the okay and CMH advertised that they were having a half price sale, I didn’t think twice about booking a helitrip in British Columbia where I have had so many great experiences previously.


Home sweet home…

I had never previously been to a CMH operation (they have 11 lodges spread throughout British Columbia) and had always thought of them as the big box store of heliskiing. I had no doubt that they they offered a great experience, but was used to going with smaller operators and smaller groups. However they were making an offer we couldn’t refuse, so we decided to try something different and boy did that turn out to be a great decision.


The syndicate

The biggest difference between this trip and past ones is that we would be riding in a bigger helicopter with a group of 10. Theoretically, this could have meant fewer untracked lines, and longer wait times but in reality it meant just more folks to celebrate the amazing conditions with that we were fortunate to have all week. BC has had an excellent early season and after a long stretch of on and off snow, we managed to catch the first stretch of sunny days with cold temps and no wind to disturb our precious bounty.





One of our big concerns with any heli operation is whether they “farm” their snow – that is they insist that skiers/riders stay close to one another in order to save as much untracked as possible for future groups. So we were thrilled to discover that our guides had a very much laissez-faire approach to our chosen routes down the hill. Basically all they required was that we meet up at the bottom of the hill so everyone got to enjoy fresh lines no matter when or where they started. And because the snow stability was excellent and their terrain is primarily classic Kootenay tree skiing, we got to ride steep untracked lines all day long. What else could we ask for?


You don’t always need a helicopter to catch some air…


Aaron shows how free heelers do it


Kevin with his usual cat swallowing the canary look…


Trevor with his V for Victory pose…

Originally, this trip was going to be a reunion of our “core four” – the same group that went to Revelstoke and Valdez together two years ago. Unfortunately, one of the founding members had to drop out but came up with a worthy replacement as seen directly above. We then spread the word and picked up three more associates who ripped along with us.


Did I mention how beautiful it was…


everywhere you looked…


and when you got there…


there were never any tracks…

Since we had nothing but bluebird days, the scenery was spectacular everywhere you turned and the late December sunlight was glorious all day. This led to an abundance of picture taking of our very photogenic crew.


Aaron finding his zen…


What me worry?


Who took this photo?


Our staff photographer, Kevin Edwards, of course…

My good buddy Kevin always complains that I never give him photo credit so I’m going to publicly state right now that any good photo of me is his doing and I owe him dearly for that as well as all the times he pulls me out of a flat spot. Who says skiers and snowboarders can’t get along?


But enough scenery shots…


let’s get back to why we were really there…


to find deep powder…


to rip turns through…


run after run…


and I’ve got to say…


it was absolutely worth…


every second…


of my…



Of course, we need to thank all the great folks at the CMH K2 Rotor Lodge for the delicious food, comfy accommodations, rides to the Nakusp Hot Springs after skiing, and most of all the incredible guiding and terrain they provided for four amazing days!


Cool sign too…

It’s really hard to capture just how fabulous the skiing/riding was with just some still photos especially because when you’re in the middle of an incredible run, stopping to take a photo generally isn’t at the top of your priority list. Fortunately we also shot a ton of video but cutting that into something that someone other than the participants would want to watch is a rather large task. In my past life, I was once a video editor so I may attempt to do just that but for now you’ll just have to settle for this tease.

And yes, my surgically rebuilt knee held up just fine, so there will be more tales from the Gluten Free Snowboarder. I need to thank my surgeon for sewing me back together, my physical therapists for working me hard, my family for helping me in times of need and my friends for telling me I’d be back. It not only takes a village to raise a child, but also to put a broken snowboarder back on the mountain. Thanks everyone, and see you on the slopes!!!

Apr 18 2015

Happy Anniversary?

Mount Sanitas, Boulder, CO

Sure beats the Vail Valley Medical Center…

Well, it’s now been a year since my fall and surgery and my how time does not fly when you’re rehabbing from a major injury. I recently passed my 100th physical therapy appointment (including the ones in Vail immediately after my surgery) and they tell me when I hit my 100th in Boulder they’ll name a therapy table after me. It’s been a long brutal process but I’m happy to report that things are definitely looking up. While my range of motion is definitely limited and I’ll likely always have some pain and stiffness, my leg strength has almost fully returned and as you can see from the photo above I can now hike the steep hills that I’ve always used to get in shape for backcountry snowboarding.

East Ridge Trail, Mount Sanitas

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

East Ridge Trail, Mount Sanitas

My partner in crime…

Fortunately I live just down the street from one of the nicest hiking trails in Boulder and have a companion who’s always willing to keep me company on my treks. It’s been an unusually dry spring in town and we’ve taken advantage of the conditions to work me back into shape. While doing hundreds of squats and lunges at home and at PT never gets old, building strength by climbing up steep terrain is far more rewarding.

Little Scraggy Trail, Buffalo Creek

Back in the saddle again…

As an added bonus, last week I did my first mountain bike ride in 18 months and while my mind was a little nervous my body handled it flawlessly. So this summer will hopefully be filled with many more rides as I get back into my normal routines. All this is in preparation for next winter when I hope to take up snowboarding full time once again.

Valdez, AK

Before the fall…

It’s been a challenging winter watching the snow fly and not being able to get out in it. I’ve had to live vicariously through friends and other online powder connoisseurs and at times it’s been very painful. Fortunately for me, while there was plenty of powder to be had if one worked hard for it, it was not a particular epic winter in Colorado or BC, two of my favorite stomping grounds. Alaska on the other hand, (where the above photo is from) has been going off and is in one of the best snow cycles in years. Watching this from afar has made me thoroughly reconsider my vow never to go back. While Valdez is certainly out of the equation, future visits to Haines now seem like not such a bad idea. In the bigger picture, while I’m very thankful that I can even walk after the nasty spill I took, it’s been the dream of snowboarding again that has motivated me through many a long and painful rehab session.  While nothing is ever certain, the gluten free snowboarder does plan to ride again!

Nov 11 2014

It’s getting better all the time…

First snow of winter

It’s that time again

After an incredibly beautiful and extended fall season here in Colorado, winter returned yesterday with the temperature dropping 40 degrees in a matter of hours along with several inches of snow. They’re calling for a high of 10 degrees tomorrow with snow through the weekend so this is definitely not just another one of those snowboarding dreams that regularly course through my subconscious mind while I sleep. Of course, the snow triggers all sorts of conscious feelings – the most prominent being when the blank am I going to be able to snowboard again!

Just add snow

It’s now been almost seven months since my knee surgery and while I’ve made tremendous progress by committing (or submitting, depending on how you look at it) myself to an intensive rehabilitation program it appears I am not quite ready for primetime just yet. The physical therapist’s office has become my second home and I am now much more familiar with the different types and levels of pain one can endure without actually passing out. When I wasn’t gathering that excruciating knowledge, I did my best to get back out in the mountains even if only by car and then later foot (no mountain biking season for me this year). Luckily for me Colorado is just as beautiful in the summer as it is on a pristine powder day.

It's a family affair...

Road tripping with the family

Fortunately, I have a new partner in crime, a young blond I met just last year. She’s passionate, athletic and generally up for anything – just what I needed to help get through these challenging times.


Her name is Lola – short for Lolita


Me and my girl

Together we’ve been whipping me back into shape by hiking the local trails in Boulder. If there has been one upside to this injury it’s that I’ve been motivated to get back into hiking and Boulder certainly has plenty to offer on that front.

Our typical morning stroll

So between all the hiking and physical therapy my leg has gotten much stronger. I still however lack the full range of strength, motion and flexibility I need to get back out on the mountain. While my surgeon is very pleased with my progress and no longer suggesting the need for a second surgery, he is not at all interested in seeing me back on the slopes anytime soon. Granted, this is not surprising news given the severity of my injury but just the thought of maybe getting a few powder days in the spring has been the carrot that has kept me going through a very long and painful rehab. And given the rate at which my leg has been improving, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that I could achieve that goal. So for now, I will abide by his wishes and keep hammering away at my very incalcitrant scar tissue but come spring I may have to take matters into my own hands…

May 26 2014

May I have another please…

Vail PT

I have always depended upon the kindness of strangers…

Tomorrow marks the six week anniversary of my surgery. On the one hand I’ve made tremendous progress since then as immediately after surgery my leg was one big swollen mass that I could barely bend at all. Now I can see my ankle bones again, have had all my stitches and bandages removed and can almost bend it 90 degrees. On the other hand, it took me almost ten minutes and five rest stops to walk 2 blocks this week and I have paid dearly for everyone of those degrees of mobility. So I alternate between a small sense of optimism that it’s eventually going to be all better and a deep depression over how far I have to go.

Fortunately my two primary helpers, Benita and Miles have been very tolerant of my mood swings. Weekends are the toughest as during the week my work keeps me busy but on the weekends the days stretch out forever. Throughout my life I have always used exercise to keep me sane and my energy balanced and really I’m not sure how I’ve lasted this long without it. But I guess we humans are remarkably adaptable creatures, given no choice we keep on going and doing things that in theory don’t seem possible.

Physical therapy is the key to the road back and is both very rewarding and exceedingly painful. It’s really encouraging to hear my therapist say my knee is looking better and see it bend a little further than the last time but then the session starts and now it’s all about pain tolerance. While it feels like to me that there is a mechanical limit to how much I can bend my leg, my therapist assures me it could go further if I would only relax my muscles that are resisting and focus on something besides the pain that comes when he pushes me past what I think is my limit. I am no longer taking any narcotics so I wonder out loud if they could just knock me out for 45 minutes and do whatever they want with my leg while I was unconscious. Unfortunately that does not seem to be an option so instead I grimace and bear it and leave the sessions totally exhausted.

At home, I have a whole other set of exercises designed to do the same thing. Fortunately those involve a stopwatch which gives me an end point that I can focus on. Surely I can stand another 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 10 and oh the joy when the clock hits zero. While I generally lack patience I am nothing if not disciplined so I do everything I’m supposed to and then hit the ice machine for some short term relief.

Tomorrow being six weeks also means I am allowed to start weight bearing on the bad leg. While I’m not sure how this works, it ultimately means I will be able to get rid of my crutches and while I have these new fancy ones that are easier to use, I will not miss them for a second. Having your hands tied up when you move from place to place means carrying things with you that are larger than pocket size is very problematic and means you are totally dependent upon others to move almost anything around and frankly I’m no Blanche Dubois.

I’m frequently asked what the timetable for my recovery looks like and unfortunately no one without psychic powers can answer this question. So much depends on how my knee (particularly my meniscus) responds and it seems like it’s a 50/50 proposition that they may have to go back in at some point for further work but that in the bigger scheme of things that would not be a huge setback. I was just recently give a new brace that I have to wear for the next six months 24/7 so there is a timetable on that but I’m best off not trying to figure out “whens” and just focusing on what I need to do today. Being a pessimist by nature that leads me to totally write off the next ski season but I must admit there is a tiny part of me that dreams about some spring skiing next year especially as I see my friends are already planning a trip to BC next March – highly unlikely but you never know.

I’m not really sure who I’m writing this for as no one is really interested in the minutiae of my recovery but I figure as long as I’m documenting everything else I might as well include this and perhaps it will be helpful someday in providing me perspective on the whole experience. There are moments when I still can’t believe this has happened to me and don’t know how I’m going to make it through the next year but then I remember there’s nothing I can do about it that I’m not already doing so I just sigh (or cry, depending on my mood) and continue on my merry way. I’m sure there are some bigger life lessons here but those will have to wait till further down the line when I’m looking back in a more reflective mood – right now it’s just a matter of putting one crutch in front of the other…


Apr 27 2014

Rehab, anyone?


My newly refurbished left knee

First comes the accident – unexpected, chaotic and life changing in less than a minute. Then comes surgery – definitely expected, very controlled and over in a matter of hours. Last comes rehab – definitely expected, many, many variables and lasts a long, long time. The accident was like spinning a gigantic wheel of fate – could of have escaped entirely (like two of my friends did), could have easily died – ended up somewhere in the middle (major injury but nothing life threatening or overly traumatic). The surgery was brutal – 4 and a half hours, very complicated, total rebuild from scratch required but lucked out and got one of the best docs in the world to do it and went as well as it could. Rehab – just getting started down a very long road but finally I get to have some say in the matter and that feels good.

One of the major recurring themes for me of this whole experience has been the notion of luck. Never has the term “relative” meant so much. Definitely got unlucky that the cornice collapsed, lost again when I got caught in it, won the battle when I didn’t die, and could have done much better (as my two fellow tumblers did) or much worse (paralysis, brain injury, amputation – just to name a few) on the injury front. Every time I show my medical record to someone I go through the same process. First they take a look at the damage and are suitably impressed  – no run of the mill ACL tear here – and immediately ask how this happened. Then after I describe the scenario and maybe show them a picture, we’re in “you’re lucky to be alive territory”. And then, there’s there’s all the rest – what do we do now?

The first doc who saw me locally did me a major favor and quickly acknowledged that while he could fix me up, their were people close by who were a lot more experienced at this than he and I might be well suited to visit them. Like any athlete in Colorado, I was well aware of the Steadman Clinic in Vail where all the professional skiers and lots of other major athletes go to have surgery and rehab. And because I live in the state of Colorado, my insurance company considers them in network so no additional cost to use them over any other provider. This clearly falls on the good fortune side, yes?

So I call them on the phone, get a consult with surgery tentatively set and have my brother fly out to help me get there and get through the surgery. Only when I see the doc, it turns out I have a blood clot so have to have another procedure first where a valve gets installed in my stomach which means no knee surgery and another week of waiting – not the best of “luck” but not at all uncommon and once again a lot better than that clot getting loose before discovery and floating up to my heart and lungs and potentially killing me.

Finally we get to surgery – major, major damage to all ligaments and other attachments – nothing holding the leg together so they have to have three docs just hold the leg in place the whole time so main surgeon can work on it. Initially can’t find meniscus and are about to give up on that when it finally appears. All in all, surgery is a success but is that good luck that they were able to overcome some serious obstacles or bad luck that it was so screwed up in the first place?

In the end, obviously “good luck/bad luck” – none of it matters. It is what it is, gotta deal with the cards dealt, time to move on to something where I have some control over the outcome and that is rehab. Now my will and determination come in to play. Still a ton of variables (particularly how my body responds) but at least it’s no longer just a waiting game for me. Initially there’s not a lot I can do – since they had to rebuild everything from scratch there is no strengthening to be done until the new ligaments and graphs have set up. This means most of my day is comprised of short bouts of stretching mixed with long bouts of icing and seeing how far over my head (heart actually) I can get my leg without my hips and hamstring applying for amnesty. Now I was not a particularly limber guy before the accident – a yoga teacher used to refer to me as a “classic stiff white guy” (at least I hope she was referring to my flexibility) so this constant raising my leg as far as it can go is not only problematic but incredibly uncomfortable.

But once again I guess this is something that I should be “thankful” for – the biggest issues I face right now are being physically uncomfortable all the time and the resulting lack of sleep that follows. I’m not paralyzed, crippled or brain damaged (at least not permanently – in the short term the narcotics are definitely not making me smarter).  I’m making good progress so far in the mobility department – up to 65 degrees – and that is the biggest short term battle – getting as much mobility as I can before the scarring sets in.  So as I slowly evolve from glutenfreesnowboarder to ligamentfreesnowboarder to hopefully onceagainasnowboarder I’ll continue to ponder the concept of “lucky” and will let you know when I figure it out…


Apr 22 2014

The enemy is finally starting to show her face…


Time to pay the piper

It’s 3 am once again and here I am back at the writing tablet. I was here at the same time last night but that was a very different experience. That was almost giddy fun in a way – let’s play this recovery from an injury as a comedy, milk it for a few laughs and get some sympathy at the same time.

Tonight is a very different game. Tonight is the start of a long new battle with a very old adversary.  I knew she was out there, lurking, just biding her time. She’s a very sneaky opponent always changing forms. She is pain. Not sharp, I stepped on a tack pain, although that’s in her repertoire, she is constant, overwhelming, unrelenting but yet still a little subtle in her own way pain.

Most people assume that if you have an experience like I did tumbling down a mountain that it gosh darn must hurt a lot. And while I’m sure for a lot of people in similar scenarios that is the case for me it initially didn’t . When I was falling everything was happening so quickly and I vaguely remember feeling my leg plant in a unusual but not searingly painful way somewhere during the ride. I can’t have tumbled more than 20 seconds and then I was upside down in the snow, knowing that I’ve been totally conscious during the ride, but that’s something’s not quite right – I can’t seem to move my leg but it’s not because I’m buried – my initial hope – but because something is wrong with my leg – it has been rotated far beyond what is has been designed to do. As soon as the guide makes it over he sees my leg pointing in the wrong direction and knows at the very least something is broken and starts the rescue.

At this point I know I’ve fucked up big time. But it’s not pain that’s my immediate concern. Yes it’s nasty and moving my body is rather unpleasant but this is not a searing, god I can’t take this, kill me now sort of pain. Maybe it’s the body protecting itself with adrenaline and maybe it’s just the the right biology but even while I’m screaming while they move me to the helicopter I know part of me is just being dramatic and that if some kind of reward for being quieter were available I could have chosen that route.

Now if you know me you know I’m not that tough, actually I’m a bit of a wimp and never hesitant to share my misery. This of course comes heavily into play in this scenario, where I am given full license to be the unhappiest person in the room and naturally I take full advantage of it. I chose to curse a blue streak and berate the gods for their callousness. Aaron, my buddy who has also taken a tumble of his own and gotten his own injuries (albeit far less serious upon initial assessment) takes a far more intelligent path and focuses on the fact that my god, somehow 3 of us have tumbled 1000 feet down a very nasty slope (your general worst case scenario) and we’re still alive – we have so much to be thankful for (we both have children) and everything ultimately is going to be alright – it’s a god damn miracle, and he’s right.

But that’s not what I see because I’m not a glass half full type of guy. No, what I see and start immediately calculating is how much a pain in the ass this injury is going to be, how much pain, how much rehab, how much inconvenience this is going to be. And I’m very good at this, having torn major body parts before and more importantly having long mastered the art of using my finely honed analytic skills to parse out all the different ways this is going to suck the fun out of my life for the foreseeable future. Am I an ungracious bastard or what? Here by some miracle my life has been spared and yet that’s the last thing I’m focused on.

But why that is and why anyone should care is a story for another evening. Tonight we’re talking about pain and while the ride to the hospital is rather uncomfortable, it’s really not all that unbearable and soon enough we’re there. This is where modern medicine kicks in, the nurses start firing questions and while they know it’s not good from the looks of it, they’re mostly concerned with making sure it’s not life threatening and after a number of quick assessments we know this is not the case. And really, I’m in Valdez, where in addition to the number of heli ops guaranteeing some good action, this is a major industrial port with major industrial accidents so nothing too exciting here.

Pretty soon I’m all doped up and that when any really significant pain ends until I go into surgery almost three weeks later. Yeah, it’s a a pain in the ass to lug your leg around in a cast but actually not all that painful – there is a definite distinction there and that’s what tonight’s story is all about. Surgery is painful. That’s why that got the anesthesiologist who’s sole task it is to keep his/ her eye on your pain. And modern medicine has more drugs and tricks for numbing that pain than hopefully you will ever need to find out. That’s great and has led to people recovering from all sorts of thing that would have been pretty much impossible in the past. But it can’t get rid of all of it and that’s what bring us to tonight.

So when I was in the heli/bus counting and ranking the list of unpleasantries this accident was going to incur, pain was high on the list. Because I remember that when I tore my ACL previously that when a friend accidentally bumped into my leg a few days after getting home from post op I wanted nothing more that to remove him and every trace of his past from the face of the earth for merely touching my leg – real pain, take me now lord kind of action. And given the severity of my recent injury and what would be involved in fixing it, I knew there would have to be some kind of reckoning for that.

I am nothing if not practical. Once you take out the option of not fighting the battle at all, I want to know immediately what I’m dealing with, what I’m going to have to do to get through this. I know I can deal with the rehab, I know I can handle all the logistics, but what I didn’t  know and have been wondering ever since I ended upside down in the snow, is can I deal with the pain?

You see, I have a little problem with narcotics. No I’m not the addictive type, but most of what makes them work well for a lot of people doesn’t work real well for me. Narcotics don’t knock me out, they wire me up – that’s why you got last nights giddy stream of consciousness. I can’t really sleep while taking them. And on top of all that they cause the same side effects that everyone hates – constipation, nausea and general unpleasantness.

This is why many of my friends who have had to deal with this have approached it in the same manner I have, which is try to get off of them as soon as possible or find one that is tolerable. My problem is that I find none of them tolerable and that with the amount of trauma my body is dealing this time with getting off them any time soon is not a possibility.

Which once again leads me back to tonight since up until now I haven’t been entirely sure what I was dealing with. You see since my last surgery they’ve added this new things called pain blockers – little bags of meds they keep attached to you after surgery that help fight/mask the pain. And until tonight I just haven’t been sure how much of a role they’ve been playing because the pain has been way up and down. One minute I think, hey this isn’t so bad, maybe I got lucky this time and then all of a sudden all I can think about is that throbbing in my leg. Turns out the pain blockers have been responsible for the “maybe I’ve gotten lucky this time” thinking because as the last drops work their way though my system my old nemesis has been rearing her ugly head.

The thing that really clued me into the possibility that this scenario might play out this way was the huge quantities of narcotics my docs prescribed for me for post op. Surely there must be some kind of mistake – why would I need week’s worth’s of painkillers – in the past, a couple of days, week tops for the prescription. And more importantly, why we’re there two sets – one for short term pain and the other for long – kind of a fine line there. And I don’t remember them coming with stool softener and anti nausea right off the bat because didn’t they take a while to develop and thus might not be necessary at all if all went well?

That because my old friend has a few allies on her side this time. Now that the pain blockers have worn off and I can actually feel my leg again I can tell just how much my love, support and most importantly, time my knee needs to become whole again. This is not a repair, this is a rebuild from scratch.

Now if you’ve hung in this long I want you to know that this is not all bad news for me. Yes, I’m pissed that I’m clearly going to need to be taking these narcotics for weeks. Which means lots of sleepless nights and more essays (oh lucky you, faithful reader) And yes, my knee needs a lot of love and tenderness but so far she’s responded beautifully. But now I know exactly who I’m dealing with – who I will be sharing my mind with till I can escape her grasp. And I have a new weapon too, one that they taught me about in school all those years ago. I’m going to use my words…

Apr 21 2014

Oh how the stream of consciousness flows through the night…


The latest incarnation of the happy boy

April 21 2:00 am – it is now day 26 post accident but only day 6th post surgery. I just awoke from a rousing one hour nap ( the plan had been to so exhaust myself that I couldn’t possibly not sleep at least several hours but that appears to have failed). I immediately felt what I fondly refer to as the glacier that currently resides on my kneecap and thus once again bitterly blamed the 24 hour ice machine that I wear almost all the time, but when I reach inside the cuff I realize it’s not cold at all (it cycles on and off) and the freezing is just my mind’s interpretation of the pain. That there’s any pain at all is quite amazing to me seeing how they’re passing massive amounts of narcotics through my system and that I still have two working pain blockers physically attached to me. All in all I do have a rather pleasant buzz going on at the moment other than the glacier which is more of a distant concern than anything right in my face, but more than enough to squelch any thoughts of sleep at this time. I am now on a self medicating routine (in the hospital they wake you up and give you the drugs whether you want them or not)) and everyone warns you not to let the pain get ahead. This is a hard concept to grasp in the middle of the day when my head is pounding with blood and the drugs are making me nauseous and my knee doesn’t feel particularly bad ( just rather uncomfortable) so my first though is the cure is worse than the disease and maybe I just got particularly lucky in regards to the pain, but at 2:00 in the morning the wisdom of this approach becomes very clear – as if I were not experiencing this discomfort through the veil of the various short term and long term painkillers I would be a very unhappy boy indeed and would be currently screaming for my brother Paul (who is in the other bedroom) to come in here and very quickly end my misery.

My brother graciously agreed to come out and help me with this tricky transition from the hospital back to civilian life and clearly had no idea of what he was getting himself into. If you’ve ever had major surgery to any bendable joint or other painful body part you know exactly what I’m talking about and have probably already given up reading this. This is the second time I’ve damaged my knee and in both case the actually damaging was not, all things considered, particularly painful. The surgery on the other hand is brutally invasive and the post op the part that really smarts. In this case, having gone significantly above and beyond the normal call of damage one typically does in a ski accident (still hate using that term because it wasn’t technically a ski accident since I was not actually skiing nor had my board on at the time, but how else do you quickly explain to people why you were sitting 1000 feet on top of a glacier in Alaska if skiing we’re not a part of the equation) the post op is bound to be particularly nasty.

And just a side note inside a side note inside a side note is that I know I must be telling this story in Colorado because at least half of my listeners ask me how the skiing was before the accident – which if truth be told I would probably get around to eventually  if someone were telling this story to me.

Anyway, I think I was doing my usually ranting about how significant my injury is/was (in terms of knee injuries that is) because this is my one point of honor among the walking wounded and dozens of medical personnel I meet daily. While I much rather have simply blown out one or two or even three (quite typical actually – I believe it’s known as the terrible triad) of my knee ligaments, since I have somehow managed to blow out all four I want my extra credit on the patient rehab sympathy score, so that when someone asks me about the what/when in the PT (Physical Therapy for those who have somehow blessedly skipped this experience) clinic – and this one in Vail is the PT clinic of PT clinics (any professional athlete who has had a serious sports injury and wanted to return to his former job stands a good chance of having been here – I could fish for a few names of current clients but the HEPA act prohibits this kind of conversation so instead I just look at the signed professional sports jerseys on the wall  and try and feel a kind of kindred spirit with them)  – there’s the sick competitive side of me that wants, when I talk to some newly met partner in pain to play my trump card and have them feel sorry for me in comparison to their one measly ligament procedure being a mere walk in the park  (now we all know that that’s a slippery slope that I emailed quite a few of you about right before I went into surgery when I saw a feature on the Today show about a paralyzed Boston Marathon runner which immediately shut down my woe is me act – this is just a knee we’re talking about here)

And of course my big trump card, my can you top this, is the picture of the route we fell down the mountain. This is what I show people, the medical personnel when they ask me how I got here. They are always very impressed and of course the next line is invariably “You’re lucky to be alive”. Now while I will joke about many other things in this post/email – what that means to me, how I got there, and what if anything I will do with that concept is a more serious subject for another time that I will thankfully spare you all from (until at least I have condensed it down from the two hour version I inflicted upon the innocent bystanders Kevin and Beth along with my brother  earlier this evening who certainly got more that they bargained for by asking me how it was going).

So what I want from the clinic if I’m lucky enough to achieve it – since I’m not noteworthy enough for a signed glory shot of me ripping down some vertical face post surgery (more realistically if anything it would be one more shot of me moseying down some leisurely meadow at Wolf Creek – with David Cole right behind me – don’t worry, that’s an inside joke that hopefully will never get old)  is for the clinic to blow up poster of that shot so that in the future somebody else can ask themselves (as several have asked me) I wonder what line those guys were intending to ski anyway?

Not sure how I got here but I believe I was intending to describe the rather challenging week my brother Paul has gotten to share with me. Now while I know in one way this is something he will treasure and use to his advantage in oh so many future life transactions and birthday cards but I also know the reality of it has not been all that much fun for him and he has certainly stepped up to the plate. I have definitely at times leaned towards making him my manservant because hell, if I’m going to have to pay for this in the future I might as well make the most of it now and he’s never ever (please, please let this be true) going to feel sorrier for me than he does right now. I’ve probably never been more cavalier about my use of niceties like please and thank you so let’s get this out of the way right now; PLEASE and THANK YOU for everything you’ve done for me this week  and my apologies for a couple of those comments about a certain lack of proper focus that in my drug addled mind seemed to crop up during the week.

My brother is a serious smoozer – he loves meeting new people in all sorts of situations and this particular scenario provided all sorts of opportunities. He is also like all the Gilbert boys  a humorist (at least that’s how we like to frame it) and is always looking for opportunities to make people laugh. I assure you this had nothing to do with my drug addled complaints about a certain lack of proper focus at times (and oh yes, we Gilbert boys like to chew on bones a good long while before we bury them). And he has had clearly the best line about my accident in pointing out that I need to rename my blog – that’s pretty damn funny if you ask me.

Cause if I can’t laugh at the predicament that I’m now in, I am (excuse my language) seriously fucked. Because according to my calculations I have yet to even graze the hard parts. Maybe I will get lucky or maybe I’m one of the toughest 5’8″ Jewish kids from New Jersey that ever roamed the planet, but for the most part the pain has been conspicuously absent which I think has a lot to do with the pain blocks that are currently attached to me and follow me everywhere because they’re taped on to me with enough tape to prevent what would naturally immediately happen if they weren’t – you would rip them off the the first time you stood up. So while I curse their invasive presence on my body another part of me says be very careful what you wish for because there is some serious pain lurking out there and as far as I can tell it has not raised its head yet (other than the first two nights in the hospital when I begged the nurse to give me Valium and Ambien on top of everything else in my foolish pursuit of sleep or at least temporary relief).

This is not so say I am not miserable and don’t use every occasion to point this out to others. Right now I’m sweating profusely in bed (my kingdom for a shower which can not happen till I lose my blocks), nauseous, bloated with pee and the usual constipation that comes with narcotic use (why people use OxyContin for fun I have no idea although I have heard that if you crush it up and snort it it’s a much better high) and later I will pay dearly for these blissful hours of feverish writing with unbelievable fatigue enhanced by the two PT sessions I have scheduled for later today. But so far, just straight, ” I think I’m going to die and if not wish I would shortly” type of pain – not so much, so keep your fingers crossed because that blog post I think might lack the levity of this one.

I don’t expect anyone to read through all this narcotic drivel (as a matter of fact if you got this far I’m rather impressed) I just knew I wasn’t going to sleep and wanted to do something creative (at least for me) instead of just listening to my oxygen tank drone on like an old B52  bomber. It’s probably time for me to try and either get some more sleep or head to the living room and start the process all over again. As always I want to thank everyone ( and particularly you Paul)  for your help and support and remark again how that has easily been the best part of this experience. I will post this and future writings on glutenfreesnowboarder (at least until I win the big auction for ligamentfreesnowboarder – and oh bless you iPad for auto filling that). So if you’re curious keep checking this blog otherwise you won’t have to worry about getting any more of these novellas in your inbox. I love you all and Happy Easter and Passover everyone!!!

Apr 6 2014

Not every powder tale has a happy ending

photo (10)

Back in the mountains again

I haven’t written much, in fact nothing at all, about this season’s snowboarding. Part of this is due to a certain amount of repetition, I mean how many powder shots from Wolf Creek can one person post. On the other hand, on this year’s trip to BC, while we didn’t have any fresh powder tracks to capture there were so many spectacular scenery shots that I didn’t know where to start. The rest of the season found me mostly skiing alone and more concerned with getting first turns than capturing any of it for posterity. Last week, found me traveling to Alaska for our annual trip and with the cameras rolling I certainly got much more than I bargained for.

At the busy Valdez airport

At the busy Valdez airport

This year we decide to head to Valdez Alaska home of the legendary Chugach Range. My three previous trips had been to Haines, Alaska where we had had variable conditions but always a great time. Our group had been culled from people I had met on previous adventures and was the same one I had skied with earlier in the season in BC. David, an incredibly strong snowboarder and all around recreational athlete who I had met on my first heli trip 12 years ago, Kevin, who I met while skiing out of bounds at Keystone and subsequently discovered that we lived less than a half mile away from each other and had kids the same age, and Aaron who I met in Haines two years prior and whose love for the Chugach Range might be the greatest snow passion I have ever seen. All are experienced and strong skiers/boarders whose love of powder and adventure made for strong bonds and quick yeses when an opportunity to go heliskiing presented itself.

My partners in crime

My partners in crime

The first two days of the trip had been nothing to write home about. We thought our timing would be perfect – Valdez had received several feet of snow the preceding weeks and was now under the influence of a massive high pressure system (in other words, nothing but blue skies). However, there had been a big wind event at the end of the storm which had compressed the powder to varying degrees depending upon location. On day one we found some nice if not particularly deep snow but since we were the third group in the lineup we ended up skiing a lot of leftovers and working around the preferred fall lines. On day two we hit almost nothing but severely wind packed snow so got off the mountain as soon as we could to save our heli time.

More tracks than usual but still loads of fun

More tracks than usual but still loads of fun

This is not to say that we weren’t having a damn good time anyway. The operation we were skiing with Black Ops Valdez had it’s own lodge so instead of our usual Alaska routine of staying in dilapidated houses or funky trailers eating lots of PB&J sandwiches we were in a beautiful lodge overlooking Robe Lake and eating delicious multi course meals. The Black Ops crew is a relatively small but experienced group that offers a wide variety of snow activities and was gearing up for Tailgate Alaska, an annual huge celebration that happens at Thompson Pass every year.

The lovely Robe Lake Lodge

The lovely Robe Lake Lodge

The guide assigned to our heli group was particularly noteworthy – Adrian Ballinger – a world class mountain climber who has summited Everest 6 times and works in Valdez in his offseason. Dinner time involved many a fascinating story about adventures of all those around the table – this is traditionally one of the best aspects of one of these trips – swapping tales with kindred spirits around the table while enjoying local food and drink. So regardless of the snow conditions we were very much enjoying ourselves and our new surroundings.

Landing some intentional air

Landing some intentional air

On day three things started to come together as they only can in Alaska. There were only two groups in the field and we immediately found nice snow on steep pitches which is what Alaska is all about. We took turns barreling down untouched slopes and trading off the camera so we could all have pictures to remember it by. After about 6 runs the other group decided to call it a day so we added their guide to our group and headed off for some more runs.

Moments before it all went bad

Moments before it all went bad

We then landed on what appeared to be a typical ridgetop and watched the heli fly off. I was sitting by my gear contemplating my next step when everything changed in a second. I don’t remember hearing any sound but all of a sudden I felt myself falling through space surrounded by snow. The cornice on which we had been sitting had split in half and I was unfortunately on the half that was now careening down the mountain. My first thought was calmly, “this is how you die in Alaska – I am about to be buried in an avalanche.” I was now cartwheeling down the mountain, periodically bouncing off the snow all the while seeing nothing but snow – kind of like being in a washing machine. My mind then shifted into the instructions I had heard in so many avy briefings – swim as hard as you can to stay on top of the surface and try to create an air pocket in front of your mouth if you’re buried. I was just getting my hand in front of my mouth and was reaching upward with my other arm when suddenly we came to a stop.

View from above

At the end of our ride as seen from above

Remarkably we were all on top of the snow. Because the snow was not that deep the minor avalanches that the cornice triggered were relatively shallow. And because we had not been sitting on top of a couloir or any other kind of terrain trap, the debris had a chance to disperse laterally instead of piling on top of us. We had however, tumbled around 1000 feet powered by a chunk of cornice that they later estimated to being 8 feet deep by 20 feet wide.

The cornice that broke

The cornice that broke

When everything stopped moving I found myself laying face down on top of the snow. I still could not move which lead me to hope that my body was merely buried. However as soon as I tried to dig myself out I realized that there was something seriously wrong with my left leg and that not being able to move was a function of the bottom of my leg now being barely attached to the top. As subsequent doctor visits would confirm I had torn all four ligaments in my knee along with numerous other tendons and meniscus and dislocated my kneecap.

 At first this was not all that painful and what I heard next was the sound of our guide Adrian moaning. As he told me later, he is not much a moaner but had sustained a concussion and wasn’t entirely sure of what had happened and asked both Aaron who had fallen with us and the heli pilot to keep an eye on him. I had assumed we had all fallen but quickly discovered it was just the three of us and while Aaron and Adrian both had rib injuries, I was the only one who could not move under my own power. Adrian worked his way over to me and immediately saw from the position of my leg that at best I had a broken leg as my foot was facing in the wrong direction. Aaron soon followed and kept telling me to hang in there while the pain kicked in and I began to realize just how messed up my leg was.

Aaron talking me through it

Aaron talking me through it

Of course, my usual glass half full attitude immediately kicked into gear and rather than celebrate the fact that I was still alive and apparently not paralyzed, I was furious at the gods for tearing up my knee and sending me once again down that long road to recovery. From there it was one long, painful slog to the helicopter, to the base, to the bus, to the hospital where they got my pants off and I could see the misshapen balloon where my knee used to be. At that point my kneecap was still way off to the side so after a quick shot of morphine they moved it back to where it more rightly belonged and now had plenty of time to calmly consider what had just happened.

I guess I had always thought it was an all or nothing proposition. Either I’d be the statistically unlucky person who got caught in an avalanche and died in which case it would not be a problem for me – just my friends and family (admittedly a very selfish proposition) or I would be in the vast majority who heliski in Alaska and come home with great tales of big mountains and deep powder. I had done three heli trips to Alaska before and while had seen numerous slides and heard about plenty of accidents I was in the usual denial of a recreational heli skier – that the heli ops are always going to err on the side of caution as killing your customers is very bad for business. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the fact that my guide from the first season I was in Alaska had subsequently died in an avalanche the next season but we had heard rumors that it was a guest’s fault for pushing limits so that wouldn’t happen to our well behaved group. Or perhaps I was thinking the odds were in our favor when we heard about the numerous accidents that had happened recently included a guide death in Haines – surely this would make everyone more cautious and the snow had had a lot more time to settle.

The slide path

The slide path

And yet our accident had nothing to do with avalanche conditions or pushing our luck on the steeps. After all a very heavy helicopter had just landed on the ridge which collapsed and you can see from the photos that we were not close to the edge. As a group we had been in many, many potentially more hazardous landings spots – this one did not set off any internal alarms for any of us and at the time we had a guide with us who had 20 plus years guiding in the area and was a local legend as well as our own guide who was used to taking people to the summit of the highest mountains in the world – this was no hot shot – johnny come lately crew.

The thing is that random unexpected stuff does happen in the mountains and if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time the consequences are likely to be very high. All of us that were involved in the accident were sure things were going to turn out much worse while it was happening. When I look at the pictures and show them to other folks almost everyone’s immediate response it that I’m lucky to be alive. And yes, it is very hard for me to reconcile the word “lucky” with the conversation I had with the first doc who saw my knee and said that the damage was “catastrophic”, as “bad as it could be” and that “my knee would haunt me for the rest of my life” – no sugar coating for him. I’m also a tad bitter that the fall was no fault of mine other than making the decision to go snowboard Alaska. But this is how it works in the big mountains – you don’t have to personally screw up in order to end up in serious trouble – I decided to spin the wheel of fate by being there in the first place.

The Heli to the rescue

The Heli to the rescue

The good news regarding my knee is that I did not sustain any arterial damage and that I live only two hours away from the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado where one of the best knee doctors in the world resides. This is where I will be spending the next to last week of the ski season (while celebrating my 55th birthday) instead of on the nearby slopes I know so well. While I am certainly nervous about the operation, at least I’m confident that if anyone can fix me up, these guys can do it.

In a quieter moment

In a quieter moment

So what have I learned from this experience? That when I was falling there was no panic just a resignation that this was it? That a matter of inches can make all the difference in the world (David who was sitting right next to me on the snow ended up with one leg hanging over the new lip but did not fall)? That “lucky” is a very relative term? It’s certainly reinforced a belief that I’ve long had – that you never know what’s going to happen and your life can change in a second and there’s no going back once it does. But oddly enough it has been that thought which has driven me to go explore big hills and chase my dreams whenever I had the opportunity – it’s just that when I was considering the “you never knows” they were usually in the context of random disease or car accidents, not an avalanche or cornice failure.

So while it may be too early to say whether it was all worth it (though I don’t see how it couldn’t be given the amazing times I’ve had in the mountains) – it is most certainly too late to do anything about it other than buck up and make the best of it. And one thing that I’ve learned for sure is that a lot of people care about me which is one thing to know in the abstract and quite another to experience first hand. All my friends and family have been incredibly helpful and Benita (the daughter of a nurse) has been a godsend without whom I would have not gotten through the first week. I am not one who finds it easy to ask others for help – I’ve always prided myself on self sufficiency but this is not something I can get through alone nor would I want to even if I could. So thank you all for your support now and in the future and hopefully this will not be the last post from the gluten free snowboarder…