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Blushing and Bruising: a Tale of Getting Rocked in the Rockies

February 11, 2013

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My winter vacation to Colorado was nothing short of spectacular… For the most part. Thanks to my dear pal Meg and her gracious parents, I was privileged to spend a week in a “ski on, ski off” condo in Arrowhead Village, a cute little nook at the base of Beaver Creek Mountain. After arriving from NYC, we got altitude-acclimated on day one of our trip, while exploring the shopping and sites of Beaver Creek and Vail Village. Among a crew of cocktailing comrades, we paused for a little respite outside one of Vail’s chi-chi hotels, where we enjoyed some slope-side coffees, spiked to perfection with our favorite liqueurs. I don’t think my coffee will ever taste the same unless it’s got some Frangelico in it! Sitting around a fire pit, the hostess tucked us under wool blankies, and, oh, it was just the life! From there, we made it to the Red Lion, just in time for its legendary après experience. Ski boots didn’t stop anyone from dancing and singing along to the live music, so naturally, we all felt right at home among the bums and bunnies swaying to ‘90s throwbacks.
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Days two and three marked our first couple of days on the slopes. The trails of groomed corduroy remained in perfect ski condition all day long, which can’t be said for the slopes of the northeast. We were out there to make the first tracks each day, cruising the powder until the cocktails called us. And clearly, we were also the first in attendance for après ski, where we made many friends along the way: Ricks Junior and Senior, a father-son pair on their annual Super Bowl Weekend jaunt; Pat, Rick Senior’s snow-shoeing crush; Dr. Something, a Norwegian orthopedic surgeon who stole Meg’s look; a Naval Academy grad incredibly proud of his ballerina daughter; Paul, a property manager who warned us that the Red Lion crawls with cougars when the lights get low; and Michaela, a lovely little ski patrol gal who saved my life

vail1Which brings me to our final day at the iconic Vail Mountain, whose tag line “like no place on earth” is an understatement. Case in point: the gondolas are equipped with heated cushions to keep your tush toasty as you’re mountain top-bound. After two full days of skiing Arrowhead and Beaver Creek, our legs were primed to take on Vail’s famous (and trademarked) “Back Bowls,” the open ski country on the opposite side of the mountain’s carved-out terrain. When we made it to the top, we all paused to take in the breathtaking vista: the snow-capped Rockies in the distance welcomed us to a blanket of groomed powder, inviting an experience for the books.


Our first run was divine. Weaving in and out of sporadically placed Christmas trees, we all agreed that the run was nothing but spectacular as we braced ourselves for another trip down. Pausing to capture the sight on camera, I took in the view before building speed for my second descent into the China Bowl, thinking of how amazing the day was shaping up to be.


…until I caught a little too much speed, hit a bump, flew into the air, lost my skis, lost my poles, lost my dignity, and lost the ability to function my right knee.
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By some stroke of miracle, I regrouped, placed my entire body weight into my left ski, let out a few expletives,  and managed my way down to the chair lift, saying Hail Marys in my head the whole way to concentrate on something other than the agony. Next thing I knew, Meg and her parents (my guardian angels!) fetched me water, Advil, and the aforementioned Michaela, a ski patrol woman (and nurse-to-be) who tied me to a toboggan, wrapping me up as if I were a bean-filled burrito.

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And then she tied that medi-sled and its human Chalupa to the chairlift. Yup. Thankfully those knots were tight, as the only fall I had that day was that fateful one.

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A few minutes later, we made it to the top, where Michaela’s fellow ski patroller, Jason (a male model! If only he didn’t have goggles on…), attached me to a snow mobile, and carted me to the base, where the awaiting bus was my final transportation mode to the ER. Crossing my fingers the whole time for an attending as attractive as Mr. Cloony circa his season as a hot doc, I cursed the bus for lacking a mirror, as a delectably scruffy paramedic named Pat met me outside to transfer me into his helpful hands. Once my paperwork was complete, he pushed me into a room, handed me a pair of paper shorts, and asked me a question most girls would kill to hear from such a stunning piece of mountain man: “We need naked knees. Can I help you take your clothes off?”

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Every ounce of my body (even my grapefruit-sized knee!) fought to keep a straight face, but halting my blushing was a non-negotiable. Rather than retort with wit, I asked to use the restroom. With such a smokeshow in my midst, I needed nothing more than to apply some lipstick and re-braid my pigtails. Priorities, right?

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An x-ray and an MRI later, Meg and her parents were at my side, serving as a loving and surrogate family, there to comfort me when the diagnosis was made—a diagnosis my orthopedic surgeon on Long Island confirmed two days later: though my ligaments are intact, the bones inside my knee broke in three spots. Unfortunately, surgery is in my very near future (this Thursday!), as is months of physical therapy. As such, I’ve relocated to my childhood home in Garden City, where the outpouring of love and support from family, friends, and coworkers has been incredible. I am so thankful to be in such great hands. There’s really nothing like your mother’s comfort in a time of need, your father’s strength, or you sister’s concern. It’s going to be a long road…. but we’ll all make it through!

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I made it this far, right?! It wasn’t my neck. I wasn’t alone. I kept my spirits up. I had on some rather ugly paper shorts, but my pout was perfection. I got to ski two runs at Vail. I had friends who treated me like family. In all honesty, it could have been a far worse experience. And though that last bump (pun intended) in the road was the obvious pit of my trip, my week in Colorado was filled with as many peaks as the Rockies themselves boast.

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I’ll check in after I go under the knife on Valentine’s Day. Here’s hoping for a hot med student to tend to my wound… 😉

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