The sheer face of death. We all must die sometime. It was my time and then it wasn't.
What a relief and beauty the contrasting colors are.
At the top of this shoot resembling a long ski jump I was standing in the starting gate which was covered with what we call a shack – really just a cover like a
The wind was steady at about 40. The temperature rising at about 5 degrees but, based on the snow falling it had to be 20 degrees. The wind died and a heavy white fog with snow laid in. The ground had about 10 feet already of a pure white snow. My course was lined with pine bows to give some relief from the pure white. There was a bluish hint to the course right in front of me, a gun metal reflection. A day before I had actually climbed the hill to memorize the course, which was fruitless as 12 more inches covered the terrain with snow that early morning.
A white out is when there is no relief from whiteness of snow and frozen cloud about you. I have been in the stuff so heavy that my feet could not be seen. This is a fog made of refracting particles all near or pure white.
Do it right and you win, do it wrong and your going to fly out of control for 100 ft easily.
A trough or a pre-jump area is a place on a ski course where the contour makes an almost half inverted oval place in the snow met with an equal half converse second or vice versa. If you hit them and compress and then extend just right you can gain speed. If you hit them wrong and stay in your compression too long you are centrifugally catapulted into space. An Olympic Ski jump produces optimally about 55 miles an hour. Too much more and the wind factor of skis in the air will rip the skis right off a lady. However these pre-jump compression troughs are often dealt with at 70 + MPH.
Stop to think about that. The racer is 200 lbs, his speed is 80 mph. Now he hits an upturn in the surface. Nature would launch him in the specific curvature in the snow – up. 80 miles per hour of 200 lbs being slammed into the upturn. In a racers best shape they can leg press 5 times their body weight. Think this way – in prime the racer has 33 inch thighs (around/ individual) and a 30 inch waste.
Maybe I was sent back so these great guys were born.
Well that was where I was at in the first downhill of the 75’76’ season. I was the first racer to go and my visibility was maybe ten feet. I was the last racer
The evergreen bine bows that marked the edges of a brand new course were now sprigs barely causing impact. This was world champion stuff. In essence you were shooting off and the shoot put you into 70 MPH in about 6 seconds. A good compression at the trough lifted and propelled you on your way. I propelled. But I could not discern the apex of the trough. I went ninety feet into the upward abyss. My angle was wrong. At over 80 mph my death was certain, I went over a ridge that went another ninety feet down. A patrolmen standing nearby reported that I went straight up angling over the cliff.
I instantly fully relaxed, I tried to right my head but the wind held my skis above me in my descent. So I was pointed head first at the uprising earth. It did not come up quickly. I actually had time to wonder “What the Hell!”. With the quick change of wind to fog rising higher above my 12k ft height a shear formed.
A sideways wind of over 140 miles an hour. It Knocked me sideways for a good 70 yards across the canyon onto the side of the next ridge.
My impact caused a small snow slide that buried me further. I came to in many feet of snow in all directions buried. I cleared my breathing space. My tomb was not cold and I could actually move many parts of my body. Uh oh I thought. I should be more busted up. Something is not natural. The official starter told me not to go, he would postpone, should I have listened to him? But if I had made it, I would have qualified for Olympic trials.
So I managed a good drool and watched. Uh oh again my spit went up. I was upside down. Then I started feeling warmer, Uh oh again, I should have been getting colder. This was beginning to feel a lot like heaven. I felt no weight and no cold and was not panicked at all, I was at peace in this un-releasing tomb.
Reverse the colors and that is a white out.
The wind that caught me got the bottom of the course just moments before, while they were radioing not to go.
Then a strange and curious thing happened; I started to fall back to earth. Again not good at all. It felt like I was falling toward hell. I had not passed the test, I was released from heavenly bonds and was plunging down. ---- ???? In an instant I was blinded and then back into nothing. Until I hit an outcropping with my butt and was launched another 20 feet down to land upright on my feet in 5 ft of snow.
The Sun was out and bright I could not see at first. Then I saw many hundred feet back to where skiers and officials had witnessed my odyssey down the mountain. It may have been God working but naturally it was the weird wind shear that cleared everything, and pushed me to safety. A thought never left my mind. I looked up the shoot to the starting area. There was a starting shed, timer wands, weather station and 3 men when I left it. All was gone the wind shear hit it direct, 3 souls lost to the mountain.
I now live knowing milliseconds are all that separate us from .......
I do not know for certain of hell and death related to our earthly walk. But I do know the old Eric died that day and a new one began. Well it was a little while later really with the bruised kidneys, spleen, fractured ribs and 2 messed up vertebrae and concussion that pissing blood stopped and I was enrolled in a nice comfy university. I should have stayed up there in the starting shack and never risked that run.
But If I had? What then?