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Tree boarding at Loveland Ski Area in mid-March

The memories function on Facebook made me realize recently that snowboarding on Thanksgiving Day had become somewhat of an unofficial annual outing for me. Back in the aughts it was one of the few days the restaurant I worked at was closed, so we all headed up to Loveland Ski Area or Copper Mountain for some early season no frills fun. There were always between half to a full dozen of us, casually swishing about the mountain, grabbing a bloody at lunch, then heading down the mountain for Turkey dinner or a long nap.

As the Earth turned into 2010, Thanksgiving snowboarding became a ritual, with its few lines and few lifts and few runs open. Board in the morning, turkey in the afternoon became the unspoken mantra whether I was single or partnered or bartending or teaching or in graduate school. Thanksgiving Day was my opening day.

And that was true on Thanksgiving 2015, a cold Thursday here in Denver with recent snow up in the mountains. It was going to be a quick morning on greens and the few blues that were open then beelining down the hill to a friend’s house for a 2PM serving of turkey. The day began ominously, with cold temperatures that took the minor crack in my windshield clear across the bottom, like a border when I turned on the defrost. Once at the hill, I waited for nearly half an hour in line (was cut twice) to buy my season pass, which had gone up $40 four days earlier. It was nearly 11AM when I hopped on my first chair with my new helmet, new jacket, and relief that I was finally on the mountain.

The snow that day was below average–early season conditions it’s called. Rocks, grasses, twigs, ice, and brown patches abound. Being aware of one’s surroundings is critical just to have fun. I decided to turn the day into a one-woman skills clinic, trying to make the smoothest heel to toe turns. I was nearing the end of Richard’s Run, an easy cruising blue that had iced over in spots and was laden with thaw/freeze chunks, when a red costumed beardski, which I had noticed earlier was flagrantly out of control, careened into me from behind, on my left side. I heard a “pop” in my neck and hit the icy chunky trail with force. I came to (or maybe never left?), and spewed a string of obscenities the likes of which I had not uttered since an ex drove my car into a barbed wire fence.

Emboldened, I raced down the mountain to report the red bearded punk to ski patrol. I was assessed, rested for more than a few minutes, then drove home, eager to be away from the mountain.

For the next year, I suffered from the head injury I sustained that day. Migraines became more intense and frequent, the lights and loud noises at work had me struggling by noon, colleagues’ names escaped me (even as I was looking straight at them), entire weekends were lost to sleep, floaters traveled daily, menacingly, in front of my eyes, and a fear of my future–professional, personal, recreational, and healthwise–became the only constant in my life.

But after sleeping through weekends, trading in snowboarding for traveling and shopping, and carefully exercising when well-rested, the head injury remains a part of me but a small part. As for snowboarding, well, let’s just say this season I’m trading in my board for snowshoes.

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