"Chapter 16 Sometimes it hurt a little



by The Editor

Chapter 16

Anyone who has skied over a period of years must expect some bumps and bruises along the way. Certainly I have had my share of them and though some of them were quite painful fortunately I never broke a bone.

Some were very painful but only lasted a short time. One common one, especially when ski poles had leather loops over the wrists, was 'skier's thumb'. This came about when falling on a hard snow surface and jamming an outstretched thumb.

The ski pole loop over the wrist was also a hazard when skiing through tree filled slopes. The pole ring was sure to catch on a tree branch giving the shoulder a painful backward yank. We soon learned to ski without the loop over the wrist. However this also sometimes had an undesirable effect. Once on MT Millicent in Utah, skiing in bottomless powder, I took a header, losing my gripe on one pole. I searched and searched but never recovered the pole in the fluffy mass.

Fever blisters on the lips were the bane of my skiing existence for decades. The harsh sunlight on the snow, especially in the Spring was sure to leave my lips a puffy, ugly mess. We used zinc oxide which helped but made the wearer a good imitation of a circus clown. Growing a mustache proved to be may best defence for this problem. The downside here was cold snowy days when the mustache became a sheet of ice.

In my very first season I gave my ankle a good twist. This was before the days of safety bindings. However undeterred I swaddled it in an elastic bandage and continued skiing with same for the whole winter.

Somehow in my style of skiing what took the worse beating was my ribs. Not once but several times I nursed sore ribs during a season. Perhaps it was because I always skied far forward over my tips and when I did fall it was generally to the side.

One very cold day at Brian Head in Southern Utah I was skiing with my 8mm movie camera in my parka pocket. In attempting not to fall I jammed one knee against the camera and into a couple of lower ribs. As the day progressed and the temperature continued to drop they became every more painful.

On this trip I was with old friend Jim Wegner and we had made the trip from Los Angeles in his Volkswagon van. This could not by an stretch of the imagination be called a soft riding vehicle. To say the long ride back to L.A. was painful is very much an understatement.

At BYU we had some ski jumpers, most from Park City and a small jump hill had been built at nearby Temp Haven, now Robert Redford's Sundance. One day in a moment of temporary insanity I decided to try it myself. I landed on my skis but immediately fell to one side again giving some ribs a good jolt.

Another year it happened on a Spring trip to China Peak, again with Jim Wegner. We were skiing on frozen tracked snow, I fell, once again on my side and banged a rib against a frozen ridge of snow.

Still another year skiing in infrequent deep snow at Mountain High in the San Gabriel Mountains, I fell against a hidden tree limb. So to once again nurse an angry rib cage. Sometimes pain proved to be a quick learning experience. I was at Sun Valley and one morning forgot my ski goggles. This a discovery I made only when I was about to climb aboard the canyon lift at Mt. Baldy. Rather than take the Shuttle bus back to the Lodge I thought I would make do.

The result was a painful session of snow blindness. It was one mistake I never repeated. Collusions on a ski hill can be very dangerous. Two of my friends collided at Squaw Valley bumping heads, shoulder, etc. Fortunate while painful and ending the day's skiing there were no serious injuries to either party.

My most unforgettable collusion took place at Mammoth Mountain and if there were any onlookers, it must have been a truly awesome sight. It was early in the say, sunshine and unlimited visibility. I was on the upper mountain and not another skier in sight. From upper San Anton I decided to take along traverse to Chair 12 planning to do it in one long straight schuss.

Unknown to me there was one other skier on the upper face far to my left. His plan was to take a straight-line back to Chair One. On onlooker would have seen two lone skiers on that huge Mammoth Mountain face each in a straight downhill line that would eventually have to cross. And cross we did and at exactly at the same moment, both oblivious to the other. Fortunately it was a glancing blow for both of us. We both of course took wondrous falls but after gathering person and equipment up discovered that neither had been injured by grace of some ski god. Admitted he was a bit sulky about it all taking the view I was not looking where I was going but then the same could be said of him. But as I stated earlier it must have been a truly outstanding experience for any onlookers.

Three other times I was not so fortunate. In later years I skied a lot at Mt. High in the San Gabriels, just 80 miles from my front door. It was must convenient for even a half day skiing

One day I was at the bottom of the hill taking off my skis at the end of a successful day when a young woman, built like she played front four for U.S.C., slid into me with one of her skis hitting my leg just about the ski boot. This developed into a painful bone bruise that lasted for some time. I could ski but any chatter of the skis or rough surface was painful so I carefully kept to the soft snow for some weeks.

Another time at Mt. High I was standing to one side of the run admiring the view a skier hit me banging his shoulder into a rib. Once again a sore rib for some days.

The worse collusion ever was again at Mt. High and happened only a few years ago. I was completing a slow turn when a snowboarder clipped me from behind. This threw me to what was a very hard, machine packed surface and I hit my head hard. He did stop and apologize but still I nursed a very nasty headache for three days. This incident made me get a helmet and I never skiing again without it. With hard packed machine made snow as often as not the rule you see more helmets every year.

I won't count the number of times I got too much sun and resulting sunburn for forgetting lotion. This was natural hazard on sunny Southern California slopes.

In all the years of traveling thousands of miles in pursuit of the sport I was in only one auto accident. This does not count the times stuck in snow especially in the early years when buddy Cal MacAffee and I seemed to do this on a regular basis. Mary and I had played hooky midweek, for a day's skiing at Holiday Hill, now Mt. High East. On our way home just west of Little Rock a car on my right blew a stop sign and I hit him broadside.

I was driving a 1967 T Bird, a car built like a rock. I don't recall what he was driving. He was a young soldier home on medical leave and he had a girl in the car with him. His car slid into the adjoining ditch. Both cars were jobs for tow trucks but all of us escaped injury. However I did have to call one of our sons to retrieve Mom and Pop from the Antelope Valley coffee shop where we had taken refuge.

Always being so far over my tips sometimes landed me head first in a fall. The result was a jammed neck which on both occasions fortunately resulted in a sprain. One day at Blue Ridge, now Mt. High West, I was enjoying bout six inches of powder which had fallen over an icy surface. I was on steep slope and hit a wind drift which carted me over my tips. The soft surface was deceptive and the icy surface below gave me a good jolt.

The almost same conditions prevailed one day at Mt. Rose-Slide Mountain, and resulted in almost the same result, though not quite so severe.

With all this assorted bangs and bruises I considered myself fortunate since none of them kept me off the slopes for more than a week or two. Counting the large number of skiing days I amassed in five decades the ouches were a small price to pay for so much enjoyment.

Also despite all such mishaps I always got of the hill on my own although sometimes with some groaning.

Broken skis were not a rarity when they were made of wood. I can testify to this since by actual count I broke four skis at one time or another before I finally made the move to plastic and steel.

Getting off the mountain with just one ski or perhaps one and one-half skis is not easy. Especially since it was always the tip that broke so that ski must then be kept more or less in the air to keep from digging into the snow for a foregone conclusion.

I have already related in another chapter how I broke the first ski at Timp Haven, now Robert Redford's Sundance.

A more amusing tale occurred much later. I was living in Southern California and bought a pair of nicely designed Italian skis at Hollywood Sporting Goods, then on Franklin Avenue in that City. They were of wood and came with a guarantee of replacement for a broken ski.

The very first time I used them, I was at Mammoth. I dug a tip and so one broken ski. The following week I took them back to the Hollywood store and was promptly given a new pair in their place.

A week later I was back once more with yet another broken ski, this time the ruin took place at Holiday Hill at Wrightwood, now Mountain High East. At this the proprietor of the store pondered some time and then suggested he would make me a great deal on a pair of metal Hart skis.

Up to this time I had only resisted buying metal skis since they were what I considered to be excessively expensive. However this appeared to be a deal I could not afford to miss. Besides I was tired of remounting bindings on new skis for every trip.

Those Harts lasted me several seasons and handled very well. Their one fault was that the plastic bottoms were very slow in almost every kind of snow. It took all my waxing know-how to make them even slightly less so. I never won a wax race with those skis. However I thought it would be 'cheeky' indeed to go back to Hollywood Sporting Goods with that complaint.

Back to Table of Contents..

Last Update:12/10/04

© 2004 Joe Hilbers All Rights Reserved.
Graphic Design by Impact Graphics