“The Injured”

As a ski patroller, I skied every day this winter. At night, I either stayed home to ice sore muscles or I poached a nearby hot tub. I’’d often head out to relive the day over beer. My uniform consisted of long johns, fleece and Gore-Tex.

I skied every day this winter… until recently. Now, I dress differently. I wear jeans, a t-shirt, and a blue arm sling.

It happened so fast: one moment, I was skiing into Marmot Basin’’s “Hour Glas” run; the next, I was tomahawking down the mountain. The sharp pain in my shoulder confirmed I’’d be a boy in blue for the rest of the season.

The dreaded blue arm sling. Image from sroufe.com.

Now, instead of going to the ski hill every morning, I’’ve started a daily pilgrimage to the coffee shop and joined a closet community known as “the injured.” In the corner sits a girl with a hot chocolate and crutches, while on the sofa, a guy sips an Americano and dreams of scratching beneath his cast. We battle to carry both a coffee and bagel to our tables with a single hand. People hold doors open for us and offer to help carry our groceries to the car. We frequent the same places: the doctor’’s office, the physio clinic and the bar. At the latter, we’re always guaranteed a seat, too.

We’’re like a disease that spreads through town: it starts off with a handful of people in November, but by April it has spread through the entire community. We don’t even speak, but we each know the other’’s story: a single run gone wrong brings winter to a premature end.

Personally, I’’d had plans for the end of ski season. I wanted to slide my ski gear into storage and free my feet from their SmartWool prison, to wear nothing but flip-flops for a month. I’’d already booked a flight and planned a holiday somewhere sunny enough to swap my goggle tan for sunglasses.

Eventually, I’’d even revisit my logbook and remember days spent on the Wapta, the Skyline and the Spearhead traverses. Then, as I do every year I wanted to sit down and look back at another great season, then ask myself the age-old questions those of us who are living the dream often feel pressured to ask:

Is it finally time to quit?

Could I trade 180-day seasons (and the inevitable injuries that come with them) for weekend commutes? A seasonal job for a career?

Was a decade of storm chasing enough?

Thanks to being one of “the injured,” I didn’t hit my quota for this year, so it looks like I’’ll have to wait until the end of next season to ask those questions one more time.

How about you?

Author Image

Jeff Bartlett is an adventure photographer and writer currently based in Jasper
National Park. He’s spent the last decade chasing storms around the globe and
arrived in Jasper just in time to join Marmot Basin’s Ski Patrol and enjoy the record-
snowfall ski season.

Comments

  1. I shattered my Tibia and Fibula in Febuary of this season skiing.  Just started walking again for the first time in two months without crutches and let me tell you, having my hands back to be able to carry that bagel and coffee is a life changing event.  Doctor says I’ll be back to 100% in time for next ski season and no matter how crazy other people think I am for being antsy to get back on the mountain again I can’t wait.  Don’t let the mountain win; when it breaks you down get back up and get back out!