by Mikaela Ruland
It was a bluebird, spring ski day at Copper Mountain.
We don’t often find ourselves in Copper Bowl, but when we do, it’s because the conditions are perfect.
This March day was no exception.
We got off the chairlift, shuffled down the ridge a ways, and peered over the shelf at double diamond terrain. Rock formations formed chutes on the slope, but there was plenty of snow, and we were confident in the run.
“Send it!” my dad shouted at my now husband, who was my fiance at the time.
Topher hasn’t been skiing for as many years as my dad or I, but what he lacks in tenure, he generally makes up for in enthusiasm. He frequently provides the comedic relief of the day with an epic yardsail and always dusts himself off and is ready for yet another attempt.
He caught an edge on the second turn, took a tumble, and went down.
He shouted out in pain. My dad and I looked at each other. It was immediately obvious that this wasn’t an average fall.
When we got down to him, he could barely get a word out.
I glanced down the slope. We were still above the rock chutes. Literally the worst possible place to get injured.
A ski patroller had been ready to drop in a few yards farther down the ridge from us and was watching our exchange.
“Everything okay?” he called out reluctantly. I’m sure he was hoping to get a line in without a rescue.
My dad and I exchanged a look.
“Umm, probably not.” I hollered back.
My dad started stamping out a platform to keep Topher from rolling down the mountain and the patroller came down and checked him out. He couldn’t bend his right knee. The patroller got on the radio and called for a toboggan.
Another patroller came down the run with the sled and they strapped him in.
Ever so carefully, they side slipped their way down to the chute. At its narrowest point, it couldn’t have been more than five feet wide. They pointed Topher’s head downhill and slipped through with precision. They were greeted by moguls all the way to the bottom of the lift where a snowmobile waited to cart him up and over the mountain, where the patrollers took back over and skied him to the base.
He ended up having a partially dislocated kneecap that had him out of commission for the better part of the year, but is slowly but surely healing.
Five years ago, my dad shattered his shoulder skiing liftline on Timberline Express and had to be taken down by ski patrol as well.
Though we’re all expert skiers, accidents and injuries can occur at any skill level, on any type of terrain. We are so grateful for Copper’s highly skilled team of ski patrol. Safely getting someone off of a double diamond run is no small feat, especially when there are tons of natural obstacles at play.
It’s easy to have a great day of skiing and not think about all the people who work hard to ensure we’re having a safe and rad experience. There are snowmakers and lift operators, groomers and ski patrollers. There are teams checking avalanche conditions and engineers hard at work making sure the chairlifts run properly. It takes a dedicated and talented team of individuals to give us an epic ski day and to them we say THANK YOU.