On February 19, 2020 while skiing the Mapleton burn I came close to losing my life, but luck and a brave soul made sure I would be here for another day.
I was out with my friend Erme Catino and we had hopes of skiing something beautiful. Turns out that day the snow was not ideal and the skinning was horrendous. Not dangerous just way more effort than we were up for. Around 5PM we agreed to pull the plug.
Despite the funky skinning we both were keen to shoot a few frames of Erme surfing through this ghost forest. Three set ups and I put the camera away. It was time to head out. I clicked in and planned on making a few happy turns to join up with Erme. As I began gliding, giving way to gravity, I noticed something was off. I decided to hip check and sit down in the next turn to hopefully come to a complete stop. The opposite happened. I was propelled head over heels quickly, the second tomahawk even faster and by the third I knew I was in line of hitting the burned out trunk of a tree.
I have visual memories up to impact. Afterward I have audio memories of checking in with Erme.
“Try not to move too much… I am going to dig out a flat spot.”
“A helicopter is on its way… They couldn’t make the rescues, but dropped some supplies… I started a fire.. I am putting some heat packs around you… Another heli is on the way.”
This is only a recollection and not exactly what was said. While I could hear the sense of urgency in his voice Erme was completely in control of the situation.
The next memory I have is waking up after surgery. Faces emerging at the foot of my bed. So many people.
Damage – I fractured several vertebrae in the neck and in the back – the main impact area with the tree- A transection on the spinal cord at T-4 (paralysis from the nipples down), broken ribs, collapsed left lung, hypothermia, concussion, scalping of the head, minor external bleeding considering the head wound.
It was such a simple wreck, something that if it happened a few feet in either direction would have provided a good laugh, but I got unlucky.
But, at the same time I was extremely lucky to be out with Erme. Despite a gnarly scene – I was basically scalped by one ski, bone exposed! – He stepped up in the biggest way possible. There is no doubt that his ability to stay calm, take action and be persistent in getting an air rescue saved my life and prevented further complications. This man is a true hero.