The morning was crisp and clear. Several inches of new snow made the skiing conditions perfect. My friend Tom and I found a spot just off the side of the trail where someone had made a jumping ramp. We checked it out and started using it, faster and faster, each time we came down the hill.
The jump was at a spot where another very wide trail intersected at 90 degrees. Being a weekday it was easy to time yourself with traffic on the hill to make the jump. The hill dropped away gradually as you crossed the other trail. The drop-off angle was perfect, such that, at about 30 mph going into the jump, you could be airborne for about 60 feet, yet never more than about 2 feet above the ground. A great rush.
After about eight runs through the jump we headed up to the top of the mountain where we spent most of the rest of the day.
Near the end of the day we decided to head down and catch a few more runs near the lodge. As we came up to the jump I was in the lead - Tom yelled "Go for it!".
Flying faster than I had all morning, I committed to the jump.
Suddenly it became clear that this was no longer the jump I had known in the morning. My skis were locked into deep grooves which had been worn into the approach and the ramp itself was all hollowed out, looking more like a launch pad for a moon shot.
I bent my knees to take the shock of hitting what was more of a wall than a jump, thereby allowing me to make a perfect launch off the ramp. Arms spinning in wide circles providing the perfect gyroscopic stabilization. Meanwhile my legs, bent back at the knees, trimmed my skis for the least wind resistance on the perfectly vertical ascent.
Soon acceleration waned and gravity took over - "Twenty feet" Tom said, "Maybe even twenty-five" at the apex.
Then down I came, straight down, skis still kicked back. I watched the ground coming up as my ski tips hit first, my skis bending wildly. When it seemed the skis would surely break, my bindings let go and the skis snapped down to lay flat on the ground. My right knee became the first part of my body to make contact - directly on the ski binding.
At first I was laughing so hard I could hardly breath, I mean it was hilarious - would have won the Funniest Videos show - but then the pain hit when I tried to move my leg, bringing tears to my eyes.
At first I thought my knee was broken, but I found I could move it and all seemed sound. I was alternating between crying out in pain and laughing. Tom was a basket case laughing and some poor lady who stopped to offer help was totally confused.
I got to my feet and found I could put some weight on my leg so I slowly finished the run down the hill. When I got to the bottom the pain had pretty much subsided so I decided I need to "work it off". What better way to do that then take another run down the hill, so onto the lift I went.
Upon reaching the the top of the lift I collapsed in a heap when I got off. I could no longer put any weight on my right leg and I had a 1.5 mile run down the hill to the lodge. I guess I could have got help from the ski patrol, but instead took off, skiing on one leg as much as possible.
When we got to the bottom I went to the lodge to sit and wait for Tom to finish the last 45 minutes of the day with another run or two. Upon his return I was no longer able to get up from the table and he had to help me hobble to the car.
On the way home we stopped at a friend's to borrow some crutches. The 90 minute drive had stiffened my knee to where I could no longer bend it - I had to be dragged from the car.
The next day I went to the doctor's. X-rays revealed that I had not broken anything, but my knee cap, my tibia and fibula were all severely bruised where they meet, at the inside of my knee. I was given an elastic knee brace and sent on my way.
Having just used the last of my vacation time and no sick pay, I had to go back to work the next day.
OSHA probably would have freaked had they seen me up on people's roofs, with crutches, fixing air conditioners.