In a matter of seconds
In the backcountry that is all it takes… seconds… for your day to go from a good one to a story that everyone wants to hear but you would rather not tell. You don’t feel it coming, you don’t sense the universe might have alternative motives for your day, well at least I didn’t… sometimes it just happens.
This day happened for me on March 30th, 2017, there was a large group of us headed to a sled ski area that we regularly go to. I am not going to lie I was reluctant to go, it was the ski patrol exchangers sled ski day which equaled big numbers of people, I am more of the selfish type and could not help but complain about how fast all the good lines were going to get tracked out. After some convincing and a promise of a pow day the following day I found myself unloading my sled in the parking lot with the others and headed up. We all met at the bottom of the first run, I was ready to go before anyone and rallied up a few others to go get the first laps down the face that had apparently reset since last week and looked oh so creamy. Georgia and I tandem’d up followed by 4 others. Re grouping at the top we discussed our line choices for the second time to confirm and how we all felt about the stability and slope. Then away we went one at a time and oh my was the snow good and fast. Full of smiles at the bottom we regrouped and headed up to retrieve our sleds. Being such a big group meant that we were all spread out, there was a second group about to go when we left on our sleds and others waiting at the bottom. In that second group was my boyfriend Alex, now I hate using the word boyfriend because he is so much more, best friend, soul mate, ultimate shred partner and just straight up love of my life, I would do absolutely anything for this guy.
Robyn and I were tandeming up to retrieve my sled, at the last climb we stop and hear our radios going bonkers. All we heard was we need to activate SAR (Search and Rescue) now. Robyn looks at me terrified and I calmly told her it must be another group on the same channel there is no way it could be us. But then yet again over the air waves comes activate SAR now, fuck it is us. I call back to Mel on the radio and ask what is going on, there is a bit of a long
pause then she comes back on to tell me Alex has hit a tree. My heart sinks and I am riddled with fear. I have experienced loss before, I have battled grief straight on for the past two and a half years and I think to myself there is no way I can do this again. I raced to the top of the run and stood there for a second staring down, then I asked the most terrifying question, should I be down there with him, is this where I have to go and say goodbye? Mel calmly answers for me to stay up top for now, Brad was with him doing first aid and 3 others were headed down. Then I flip into fight or flight mode and fight it was. I previously activated my SPOT before continuing to the top of the run and now I had my radio out to attempt to call the ski hill and yes we got through, just barely, but we got through. They were coordinating with SAR to send a helicopter. I could not have been more grateful to have had all those wonderful people there with us, the rescue was so well organized. We had Mel at the bottom keeping track of everything, Brad up top on radio coms, 4 people on the scene with Alex doing first aid and me and Robyn making LZ’s for the heli. I was beyond thankful for the numbers & that every one of us was well trained.
After a painful ski down in a vacuum mat , a heli ride and an ambulance ride we found ourselves in the ICU. 12 broken ribs some in multiple places resulting in flail chest, lacerated kidney, punctured lungs and fluid in the lungs, oh boy how this could have turned out differently I keep thinking to myself and just how lucky I am to be laying at his side.
I am always up for adventure, sometimes I even get grumpy when we don’t do something in the mountains for more than 2 days but now, now I was so god damn happy and content to be sleeping on a tiny bed in the ICU and waking up to see him there.
What’s the moral of this story? Well there certainly is the obvious; training saves lives, be prepared for anything and collaborate with your crew on what you have for rescue equipment as well as communication devices, also give search and rescue a massive high five and any support you can cause they save our asses all the time and they are volunteers.
Then there is the other message to take home, life is short and can change in a matter of seconds, hold the ones that mean the world to you closer than ever and tell them every damn day how special they are, appreciate the little things and let go of the petty arguments that in the grand scheme of things mean absolutely nothing. I wish this type of wake up call upon on one but hope that others can learn from our story, be prepared for a rescue scenario of any type, have all the equipment necessary to carry out a rescue as well as communication devices to call for help. Also turn to the ones you love and give them the biggest hug yet, gratitude is a rare thing these days we regularly get caught up in the chaos of life, stop for just a second breath it all in and appreciate what’s in front of you.