– This was written a few hours after I rode this cool little chute canvas in Alaska on the 16th of February 2016. For those of you who don’t know, it was a little bit of an ordeal for me as it was the first out there thing I had tried since getting buried in Italy –
– Skiing is the most beautiful thing in my life. It is my passion and I am grateful to be able to commit. –
Hiking up Headwall today meant a great deal to me.
The traverses were sketchy, but it was a bluer than bluebird day.
Alaska is a place I love and have been super obsessed with for as long as I can remember and I am grateful to be out here making the most of this incredible terrain.
The only thing is: I am recovering from trauma and I am in dealing with it poorly.
I am very good at making my mind hurtle at blistering speeds, towards, what are sometime ambiguous objectives, and motivating myself to do better, bigger, more at every opportunity I get. This goes for pretty much every aspect of my life.
To call it a perfectionist type tendency wouldn’t be accurate, as I accept that perfection does not exist as a destination. However, to say that I fear the disappearance of ability and progress would be closer to the point. When the development in question is internal, that’s when it becomes a real horror show.
Ok let’s put it this way:
You’re on top of a ridge which has the potential to hold a super fun tango line. You scope out something next to your boot pack which looks mellow enough to accommodate your tango wishes. After psyching yourself out for too long (mistake #1) on top, you slide down to get a better view of your run. Ok two turns and I will be through the filling of the rock sandwich. Totally fine. The snow is good. Snow patrol above me, my friend is to my right. Nothing can happen here, I’m not going to be in spot where I will be taken out. The face isn’t going to be dragged under me like a blanket again. If it does I have snow patrollers around me ready to step in. Nothing can go wrong, right?
First turn. Not good at all.
Ok slide down a little. Calm down. Count in four time. Alphabet backwards. I hear that noise in my head.
That cracking whoomp.
Introduce the most graphic, vivid flashback I have ever received of being wiped out. Maybe it was being on the face of that mountain in all of its splendour, and seeing the sluff roll out below triggered it. The stuff was innocent, but the left side of my body immediately started throbbing in every joint that got shredded, and my stomach and heart started spinning around a nonexistent axis. My lungs felt all kinds of tickled. Those of you who have had full body flashbacks will know how utterly terrifying this is.
A new voice says its ok – go, just make some turns. You’re alright. Just make some turns, it’s not that difficult. That was present me coming back, I think.
I didn’t make any decent turns down that face.
I get to the bottom. I am shaken. Full of a sickly adrenaline dump.
I end up getting myself a lemonade and sit on a bench trying to ground myself: ‘I am sat on a blue bench, my hands are on a blue table, I can see through a window looking south, my goggles are on my helmet, and my helmet is in my head. I am drinking lemonade.’
Then I felt ridiculous and just started to furiously lap the resort, stimming, safety rage, trying to shake out this awful, nauseous energy.
I am frustrated, truly.
I am angry at myself for being scared. I am angry at myself for not being able to charge like I used to. I am angry for skiing with poor form. I am angry I cannot ski without choking myself up on my way down. I am angry at myself. I am angry.
I knew the process of getting the elusive ‘monkey off my back’ would not be an easy one, but I did not realise I had the energy to channel so much into anger and frustration. I appreciate that this journey takes patience and a meticulous endurance with patience and practice, especially with regards to getting my form back. Although I am aware of the challenge, I feel like I’m trying to ignore it. This whole ‘open for business as usual’ attitude isn’t working, and today I learned that it leaves me more vulnerable to the malevolence of flashbacks and sensory dissonance.
My Girdwood big sister, Brooke Edwards, talked to me about the grief that goes with accidents – and reminded me that just because I didn’t perish, it doesn’t mean that parts of me didn’t.
The more I actualise the debriefing of my accident by skiing presently, the more I have to confront the fact that there will be part of me lost in Val Veny that I will never get back: my child like sense of fearlessness, my ability to not get choked with panic, the ease of turns without joints that got worked down an avalanche path.
All these things are gone.
Italy had its way, and I may never get those things back in the same size that I had them before, or at all, really.
Yet what this leaves me to is understanding that although that me is gone, this new territory, a new skier has been born, and I am here for a reason.
Something out there wants me to be here and I am going to make sure that I do something worthwhile with this precious gift I received. I’m never giving up. If I did I would have never stepped on that plane to Anchorage or worked the crazy hours to get here. If I gave in, I would never have hiked all the way up Headwall. The mountains here humble you out, and make you want to be better the next time you meet. However, this is not easily achieved, and although they push you, they also take care of you if you make good decisions.
This is what I came to Alaska for. To push myself to be a better. To enjoy the mountains I adore. This winding recovery road is full of pot holes and speed bumps, but I have shock absorbers and I will take it when and as it comes.
So much feels so new, and it’s exciting as I move forward; I feel blissfully unaccustomed. I have no idea of what I am capable of. I know more about who I am not than who I am.
I am grateful to whatever powers kept me alive that day, and am so happy to be able to savour these opportunities today, doing the thing I love the most.