Thursday, January 15, 2009

Man Down [2009 Northstar Day 2]

Larkin and I got up about 7:30 a.m. We wandered down to the village, got our lift tickets and some coffee and tea at Starbucks. Shortly after 9:00 a.m., we were on the gondola heading up the mountain. The base of the gondola is in building with Hunter's condo. We put on ski boots on in the room, took the elevator to the lobby, collected our skis from a locker and walked 10 steps to load into the gondola. very cool...

Larkin and I had a great two hours and a half hours of skiing. Hunter called and we met up with him at the bottom of the Comstock Express Chairlift in the middle of the mountain about 11:30 a.m. Unfortunately, things went south from this point.

On our second run on the backside on the Polaris trail, Hunter had a nasty fall.

There is some confusion about what actually happened. I was very far behind Larkin and Hunter, Larkin only saw part of the crash out of the corner of his eye and Hunter does not remember what happened very clearly.

As I skied towards Larkin, he was gathering up skis and poles and I can remember thinking "what is he doing?" since he had his skis on. Larkin started waving and pointing downhill. As I cleared the next rise, I saw Hunter along the tree line about 150 yards below us.

I was the first person to Hunter. He was face down, unconscious and bleeding from his mouth, nose and cuts on his face. He was laying with the pole under his throat which was making it difficult for him to breathe. Without moving him, another skier and I made a decision to dig the pole out. This helped his breathing. At this point, I was very worried about his right arm; it seemed to be at an odd angle.

Larkin eventually skied down with Hunter's skis and one pole. We kept talking to him. Although it is difficult to judge, it was four or five minutes before he started to respond to his name and open his eyes. We told him to lay still and not move.

Within about 10 minutes, the ski patrol was there. After checking him out to make sure that there were no spinal injuries, they got him sitting up. He had a bad concussion; he did not know where he was or what day of the week it was. The ski patrol loaded him into a sled and took him to the bottom of the hill. From there, they loaded him onto a different sled behind a snowmobile and took him to meet an ambulance which transported him to the hospital.

I was able to get Robbie's (Hunter's oldest son) cell phone number from Hunter as they were loading him in the sled. Larkin and I took the chair to the top of the backside and left a message for Robbie.

The ski patrol told us they would call and let us know which hospital they were taking Hunter to. At this point, Larkin and I stopped for some lunch and a beer.

Trading messages with Robbie, they figured out where Hunter was and they headed to the hospital. Larkin and I decided we would continue skiing until we heard from them once they got to hospital.

We ended up skiing until 4:00 p.m. We stopped back at the condo to change and pack up our gear. We headed to the hospital to check on Hunter. Hunter ended up with two broken ribs and a punctured lung. He also had a bad case of road rash on his face and the side of his head.

We headed back to Sacramento. I got home about 7:30 p.m. The kids were able to get Bobbie out of the hospital and back to the condo that night.

There are a couple of postscripts on the day. Larkin and I ski with helmets. Hunter was not wearing a helmet.

Larkin is retired and has worked as a ski instructor the last two years. He has skied over 130 days in the last two years. I have skied with Larkin for 27 years. Larkin skis hard and fast. I always have to work to keep pace with him.

On the run that Hunter crashed, I actually pulled up and stopped chasing them several minutes before Hunter crashed. In all of the years that I have skied with Larkin, it is only time I can remember actually thinking we are moving too fast.

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