I'm writing to give an update on an unfortunate situation. I was recently injured in a stunt in Boston and sustained a pretty big gash on my back. I skied down a very long escalator in the Boston T-Station. Yes skied- with snow skis and boots… plus a helmet and mouth guard of course. Got it, okay well you’re easier to convince than the Mass General Emergency Room staff! Why an escalator? I was inspired by a few videos of other skiers skiing down them, but more on that later. Yes this was a bad decision. Again I don’t want to glorify my injury, so please read my evaluation of risk and the pressure factors that led to my injury at the end.
The escalator was long and steep. Half way down I knew I was going too fast, and I was able to tuck and roll at the bottom when it transitioned to flat (Read: Tumbling saves lives and everyone should be doing tumbling drills!) I slid across the floor and crashed into a wall about 30-40 ft away. There were those yellow “this escalator is closed” metal signs laying against the wall. They probably cushioned my impact but also sliced my back.
I quickly hopped up from the crash. My head was okay and I wasn’t in a lot of pain, but I knew I was bleeding. I ask my friend to take a look and she responded that we immediately needed to pressure the wound and to call an ambulance. I’m thankful to great friends who took wonderful care of me. I was lucid and calm. I was able to walk and able to talk. I took an ambulance to the Mass General ER. Did x-rays and a CT Scan:
No internal bleeding, which was my big fear
No major broken bones (turns out buried deep in my medical report that I have a slight fracture to my transverse process)
So so so lucky!
However to repair my gash, I ended up going into surgery that evening. Everything went well, and I woke up from the operation feeling pretty good. My friends were there to keep me company and take care of me. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I was discharged from the hospital that morning and am on the road to recovery. It wasn’t super painful, and I was able to go through the whole process with no pain meds. I have pretty good pain tolerance, but mostly I think that area of my back does not have much nerve innervation. I was able to fly home to Colorado a week later.
-Canceled trip to Argentina: I was supposed to fly to Argentina that following Thursday. Clearly not able to do that which is such a bummer. I had been looking forward to that trip all summer and it’s a big loss.
- Feeling disappointed in myself and also letting down my family and friends by putting them in a position where they fear for my safety. I’m honestly embarrassed by my decision, and I feel the desire to protectively fib about what happened, the extent of my injury, and the potential consequences.
-No activity for 3-4 weeks: No lifting more than 5 lbs
-Mild activity for 6-8 weeks: No lifting more than 10lbs We’ll see when I’m allowed to start doing PT and rebuilding my strength
-Full recovery: Probably close to 2.5 month. Again so so lucky it wasn’t worse.
- $1750+ in medical bills + who knows how many hours on the phone to make sure my insurance covers what they are supposed to.
-Way more series injuries: Broken bones, cut spinal cord, damage to internal organs.
-Not skiing this season or ever again
- Knocking myself out and not being able to be helpful in the care process after the accident
Honestly, I am mostly disappointed in my decision making, especially when I’ve been working hard on my risk management strategy for snow. I like to push myself, but I’m pretty calculated and don’t consider myself a big risk taker. I’m actually pretty against the “huck it” culture of free-skiing and big mountain.
There is a mentality of “If you land it, it will be epic and if not, the crash video will be awesome” Hence I will not post my crash video…
I want to be a representative of how proper training and dedication can allow you to accomplish big goals safely. I love being outside and want to enjoy an active lifestyle in my older age as well. I’ve been proud this summer of taking things slowly and fundamentally focused. It sucks to have had such a mental slip up, and I’ve been working to evaluate the factors that led to my poor decision making.
It was stupid and I can admit that. I’m in a sport the has inherent risk. Especially switching to big mountain, I have to reevaluate the risks that exist. I have to learn from this. Just saying it was stupid and should’t have done it is not enough. I won’t repeat this exact mistake but the pressures that led me to do it will continue to exist and affect me in the future.
So here are my current mistakes and factors. If you see more, please tell me and help me learn. I will not be offended, but rather want to engage in conversation.
1. Performing a stunt that is not aligned with my bigger ski goals
2. Lack of preparation
3. Time pressure
4. Pressure from social media
5. Trusting other’s experiences for my safety
6. “Expert Halo” + “Social Facilitation” Heuristics
1. Stunt that is not aligned with my bigger goals: I’m not an urban skier. Other than the fact I had skis on my feet, skiing down an escalator is nothing like what I do on snow. It is not part of my bigger dream. It is not something I have trained for. It was purely a one-time stunt. If it was a real goal, I would have totally prepared differently.
Moving Forward: Asking myself if I’m prepared for this. Writing it down as a goal so I can take the appropriate steps to safely accomplish it.
“If I successfully accomplish this, would I repeat it?” Is it luck or is it skill?
Take a day or week to look at stunt. Don’t rush into doing something. If it is worth doing, you can always come back.
2. Lack of Preparation: This ties into not having this stunt be a real goal. I didn’t start on a smaller, shorter escalator. I didn’t scope out different escalators that had longer run outs. I had a helmet and mouth guard but not a back protector or other pads.
Moving Forward: Write down potential risks and take steps to reduce them. Start small. Never hurts to repeat a step of the process. Saying “it won’t happen” is not good enough.
3. Time pressure: Skiing down the T escalator is not exactly “allowed”. I had people scope out if there was an attendant present. I went at night so it wan’t crowded. It felt like it had to be In-and-out stunt before we got caught. That pressure led to less prep and high risk choices. I didn’t practice on the smaller escalator. I didn’t measure and recheck out the distance to the wall. I didn’t notice the yellow signs I hit at the bottom.
Moving Forward: Be wary of “Now or Never Moments”. If you don’t have time to safely do something, be okay saying no. You may sacrifice your money and efforts to get there, but that’s a heck of lot better than getting injured; plus hospital bills are expensive. Expect to feel this pressure especially around weather and end of trips.
4. Social Media Pressure: I like to think I don’t really care about social media but it is definitely part of my ski career and future success. “If there weren’t people to film it, would I have done it?” Certainly not, so I leave that there.
Moving forward: If I stick to my goals, I can accomplish what I need and people will respect it. I can’t get content if I’m sidelined and can’t ski. Say no to “kodak courage”.
5. Trusting other’s experiences for my safety: Ugh this is the worst and the most embarrassing part, but I thought I would stop sooner based on watching other’s youtube videos. Ooof that is so painful to admit, but it is true. I don’t know if the videos were altered. They were also POV.
Moving Forward: Use others for inspiration but video is not a substitute for doing your own safety eval and prep.
6. “Expert Halo” + “Social Facilitation” Heuristics: The fact that the Avalanche Level 1 course uses the word Heuristics makes the Neuroscience major nerdy Sophia so happy! I know I have an “Expert Halo” and therefore people rarely question my judgement. I typically make good decisions. I have a lot of skills and am a competent skier. My friends who were there are not ski friends but school friends. Everything I do to them look straight up crazy, and they didn’t understand the risk I was taking. One friend mentioned the wall being close, and I dismissed it quickly. As for Social Facilitation- I would have not gone alone and done it.
Moving Forward: I’m a really good in-bound skier. I had a successful mogul career but that is so different from my next adventures. People say “you’ll be fine” but I have to acknowledge my weaknesses and own them.
In summary, I’m okay and I’m lucky. I hope to make better decisions moving forward by understanding the risks I take and evaluating the pressures I face. Feel free to participate in this. I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.