Helmets and other good things

Long story short: wear your helmet. No excuses.

Long story longer: Kevin and I tried for repeat of our awesome bluebird day of awesomeness at Loveland doing some in-bounds skiing. This time, we brought along Emily as well and she fit in quite well with our skill and ambition level. She’s also an astronomer, so we got to nominally talk shop and not feel too guilty about missing work.

The day was just as lovely as last time, but with the addition of about 8″ of new powder to sweeten the deal. After two warm-up runs, we headed straight for Lift 9 and did some nice descents from the Divide. The powder made the slopes a good deal less scary and kept speeds a bit lower. I’ve never been good at powder, but I adopted an aggressive style and it worked out pretty well.

On our third and final descent, I’d successfully surfed the steep and deep and made it look relatively good. I was running out the last of the powder down toward the groomed greens and our next adventure. Hmmm, perhaps I’m going a little faster than I should be. Hmmm, I should probably slow down. Just at that moment, I hooked my left tip and was rapidly airborne. I’m not sure exactly how I landed, but it involved my head to the extent that all the vent holes in my helmet were crammed full of snow and my face and beard were similarly powdered.

I did the usual census of body parts and found all of them shocked but responding. Neck hurt kind of a lot. Wiping snow off my face, I saw Kevin and Emily about 30′ away with identical inscrutable looks on their faces: equal parts holy-cow-that-was-amazing, we-should-be-very-worried, and I-can-believe-he’s-getting-up. My right pole was bent at about a 30 degree angle but, aside from a stiff neck and a slight daze, I was okay. Upon reviewing my tracks, I found a long straight pair of shoulder-width tracks which terminated in a roughed up area, then about 10 feet of untracked powder followed by a long gouge plowed by some part or parts of my person.

After one more run (very shaky and possibly mildly concussed on my part) we broke for lunch and resolved to dial it down a notch or two. I switched to my telemark gear and puttered through a few turns on the green slopes. Kevin and Emily were patient and deferential, though I was feeling physically much better at this point. We migrated over to Lift 8 and did some runs in the untracked powder over there. I discovered that my tele technique really is wretched, but that it worked a bit better on steeper and deeper than on groomers. Finally, I got tired of the mental and physical effort of trying to be good and do my telemark turns properly, and just started tele-pining for 90% of my turns. Not as much control as my alpine skis, but still sufficient for most of the time.

An elevation-time profile for our day. The crash happened on our fifth descent (the third from the Divide), about half-way down. Times are UT, for some reason

It was a good, though sobering way to finish the alpine season. In any case, I think back to the years that I resisted wearing a ski helmet while religiously wearing one for almost every other “dangerous” sport I undertook. I’m glad I finally saw the light last season. I don’t know what my life would be like at the moment were I not wearing a helmet.

A GPS track for the day. We covered pretty much all of Loveland Basin from Lift 8 on the top to Lift 1 on the bottom.

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