There are so many ways to enjoy time outside. This is one of many unique stories we’re sharing as part of our effort to highlight the Limitless Sides to Outside.
Since age two-and-a-half, I’ve slid my feet into rigid boots and embraced the way an unforgiving sport makes me feel certain I’m home. Skiing is unforgiving—there’s inhospitable terrain, questionable snow and an unforeseen amount of risk—but I’ve been captivated by the sport from the time I was little. I’ve dedicated my life to skiing: I’m a former editor for SKI magazine and, between 2003 and 2012, worked as a volunteer ski patroller. I’ve gotten to do things that many skiers—professional or not—spend their careers dreaming about.
In the spring of 2012, I was backcountry skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, when a fall sent me ping-ponging down a narrow couloir, where I slid to rest 1,000 feet below. A search-and-rescue team with a doctor on staff transported me to Idaho Falls Regional Medical Center. I’d been knocked unconscious and was placed in an induced coma. I spent a few weeks in the hospital in Idaho, and then a ski patrol acquaintance secured an air ambulance to take me home to a hospital in Colorado. I had a Traumatic Brain Injury, multiple skull fractures, a T10 burst fracture, a C3-5 Spinous Process fracture, and a broken right ankle. After back surgery, I began taking steps toward recovery.
That incident didn’t abolish the way skiing transfixed me. There was something unrelenting that wasn’t knocked away by my accident. Skiing is part of the way I was raised, and nothing can separate me from that—not even a near-fatal accident.
With an indefatigable passion for the sport, I began skiing a year and a half after my accident, in 2013. Skiing behind poles, the ends of which were held by ski instructors, I got my body back doing what muscle-memory never allowed it to forget. Now, nine years later, my accident has taught me that I can find happiness again if I slow down and ski for myself. I yearn for powder days and not-quite-as-steep pitches. I still find joy while skiing—descending slopes brings me elation I can’t find anywhere else.
My accident didn’t cause me to lose my love for being outside. Before, I eagerly pointed my skis down double-black diamonds and choppy terrain. I don’t think I‘ll ski that way again—and that’s OK. But stepping into my bindings makes me feel courageous again, like my mental bravery wasn’t lost. Skiing is about happiness, and no one can take that away.