The Fallen Snowboarder

October 23, 2017
By , CUPERTINO, CA

It was the first time I had tried to do this. I stared down at the slope: dotted with trees and other skiers as plentiful as stars in the sky. It was an enormous near-vertical drop, the largest I had seen, and - in a few seconds - I would be rushing down it. I tried to not think about the dangerous things that could happen - like losing control of the skis and tumbling down the mountain or falling down, crashing into trees, and ending up carried to the hospital in a stretcher. I took off, with the wind, snow, and ice flying into my face as I hollered at the top of my voice. For what seemed like an easy thing for me - I had been taining for the last couple of days - I was frightened to death but was still welcome to adventure. After all, I was a pretty advanced skiier and nothing bad would happen.


I went down the first thousand feet with no difficulties - that is, other than the fear of something terrible happening. Then, after I skid off the top of a small ramp nearly losing control of my skis while shrieking at the top of my voice, I heard it. I looked over my shoulder and saw a person who was skidding down the mountain and heading right down toward me at twice my speed. He was bawling for help, but as I looked in both directions, it seemed like it was only me who could help him. I hit a stone and turned around, realizing my skis had locked up and I had detoured off the trail. After I had unlocked them and I was steering back towards the trail, then I realized that I would have been heading towards a grove of trees. I did not know what to do to help that poor person, and every second, I was heading downward. Determined not to let him out of my sight, I skied looking over my shoulder.


I decided that I should help him. I slowed my fall as much as possible by digging my skis into the ice and creating as much friction as possible. I sviweled my head to watch as he veered off the trail and started to head towards the grove of trees I was previously was headed to. I frantically moved towards him as I tried to calculate his trajectory. As he flipped on that same ramp I had skid over, I got a closer look at his face. I had originally thought it was an adult professional snowboarder who had tried a stunt and had landed on the ice, but it turned out to be a kid slightly older than me - maybe 14. My ski instructor had told me before, “DO NOT stop to help anyone when you are on the slope; many deaths have been reported for high-level skiiers in this area.” Yet I had to pity this youngster just like me who could die skiing in such a dangerous area. I decided to stall as long as possible - but I felt myself slipping and losing altitude as the snowboarder and his board came crashing down the slope towards me. I skiied to the right so he wouldn’t crash into me. As I was moving the pair of ski poles to one hand, I suddenly slipped, shoving down more snow down the slope.


I did not know what to do. My mind was racing thorugh all the possibilities, from the possibility that the snowboarder would get up and I could just steer up onto the trail to the possibility that the snowboarder would crash into me and we would both tumble down and crash into the mountain. I decided since standing there would only make me fall down even more, I tried to ski horizontally back and forth as I watched and counted inside my head: 500 feet, 400, 300, 200. I braced myself for the impact, but when I saw at the speed he was falling down towards me at, I started to turn towards the trail, leaving him hopeless. But, I had to help him, and it would just mean more excitement to me. But as the milliseconds went by, I decided on to stay there and help him. But I realized I too with him was heading to the grove of trees, and according to my calculations, was not heading down fast enough for me to be able to save him.


I decided that he would be hurt pretty bad, so I decided to ski down and call a stretcher. I knew that the trail would curve down in front of the grove of trees, so if by any miracle he had survived, I would be able to see him. I tried to lean forward in the wind - trying to enjoy it - but the guilt in my mind of letting him get injured by the grove of trees was too much. I decided to ski down as fast as I could, meaning that I could reach the ground in around 5 minutes. I expected that yes, he would come out of the grove of trees, but with a couple of broken bones and multiple black eyes.


Yet, as I skiied around the bend that would allow me to see how he had fared through his journey, I strained my neck only to see him come out of the grove of trees, unharmed. I was relieved, as I had no burden on myself anymore, but I realized that I had thought that too soon - as he was heading right towards another group of trees. In a last minute of desperation, I extended my ski pole as far as I could, hoping he would grab it, and he did - to my relief. Now, all I had to do was to pull him up. But I realized what challenges I would face. The guy was at least 25 pounds heavier than me, making it nearly impossible to pull him up. But with all of my hope, I skid to a stop, and then tried to lift him straight up. Although my attempt at pulling him up was in vain, he decided that the use of me stopping him was a great way to get up onto two feet. He thanked me and then skid down the mountain, grateful he had not gotten seriously injured. I was thankful that he had not gotten injured because it relieved me of a burden. So, since all worked out, I relaxed as I continued skiing downward and hoped nothing bad would happen.






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