I hear the crunch of snow and don’t dare move. I know the ice is there, but for some reason, it doesn’t hurt. I breathe and slowly move each of my limbs, checking for broken bones. Somehow, my skis stayed on. My poles had flown out of my hands though, forgotten behind me. I lay there, adrenaline coursing through me.
• • •
It’s early afternoon, and I talk with my sister Kate and her friend Lucy as we slowly rise up the mountain. The old wooden chair lift sways as we talk about the delicious hot chocolate we had recently sipped. The cold wind bites at our faces, but we don’t mind much. I pull down my mask to speak and laugh with them on the journey up.
The chair slowly reaches the top of the lift, and I raise my skis. We slide over to the top of the Terrain Park and meet up with my parents and my youngest sister, Charlotte. I watch as Charlotte goes down the hill with her skis practically in a full split to keep from going too fast. I gasp in surprise as she hits a jump, catching a tiny bit of air, and tumbles down. I shoot down the hill down to see if she’s all right. She looks up at me with a wild grin on her face, determined to try again.
“Will you try it with me this time?” Charlotte pleads.
“Sure,” I say. “Why not.”
I board the lift again with Kate and Lucy. When Charlotte went over the jump, she slowed down almost to a stop before she hit it. But since I’m older, I reasoned, I should go over it much faster. Yet as the chair rises, so does my fear. Tension builds in me, clawing at my stomach. I do my best to ignore it, put on a fake mask of confidence, and brush my nerves away.
We reach the top of the hill, and I watch Charlotte ski down the course, slowing again as she nears the jump. This time, she wobbles a bit but stays up. My turn. I take off and dash down the slope, avoiding the other jumps and rails. The last jump is in sight, and I center myself before it, never slowing down. Fear suddenly punches me in the stomach, and I race onto the rail.
I feel stuck in midair as I slowly tip forward. My poles snag the ground, so I let them go. The winter air rushes against me, but I don’t feel cold. The tip of my right ski digs into the snow first, jerking me forward. My face hits the snow next, and the impact snaps my neck back. I slide down part of the hill, my face dragging through ice. Somehow, my skis stay on, dragging behind me. Slowly, I come to a stop. I can’t see, hear, or feel anything. I’m blinded by fear and adrenaline.
I feel no pain, just numb. I might have broken my neck. Maybe I’m going to be paralyzed. Maybe my legs are broken. Maybe my arm. Hysteria crowds my thoughts. I slowly move each of my limbs, checking for broken bones. Then I start to pull myself together and sit up, life flooding back into me. The right side of my face feels numb, my lips already starting to swell. It doesn’t hurt though.
My dad grabs my poles behind me, and I meet up with the rest of my family at the bottom of the hill. Although blood is running down from a trillion cuts on my face, I don’t notice it. My full attention is on Charlotte. She looks up at me, waiting for a reaction. I remember her wild grin full of determination. Slowly, I give her a pained smile.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.