Alas, poor John. I knew him well. Friend, compatriot (he encouraged and guided me in this blog endeavor) and fellow instructor … and now he’s gone … well for the ’15-16 season anyway. Done for the duration. Wiped out at Holiday Valley; felled by a tree; brought down no less … by a ski patroller!
It all began many years ago. John migrated into the Western New York region, in from Illinois … pretty wife, three beautiful children. Seems he was taking on a new career, starting a new life in the cold northeast – Buffalo to be more precise. Good Lord! What might he do to pass the long winters and keep his family happy? Well for one, he could pursue his avocation and expand upon his interest in skiing.
So, we hooked up and I dragged him out to the Buffalo Ski Club. John proved to be an “air-head”. To put it mildly, John loves to jump the bumps – loves to “get air”. And he loves to ski fast. Plus he loves people. Lastly, he is especially adept in helping people. All the ingredients of a club member, a teacher, and a ski instructor. Oh, and did I mention he likes to sample craft brews? Well that’s just another “plus” in his dossier but another whole story.
So, I talked him into joining the instructional team. He came along well. Progressed rapidly, he did. And soon he made a place for himself, and thankfully dragged his daughters into his scheme. Yep, Maddie and Lorian both proved great assets to our children’s “Mountain Ranger” instructional program. I got to work with them on occasion, and I can attest to their merits and worth. What a find! Thanks, John.
However things began to slowly change. Yes, at first John appeared to be taking new turns. Granted, initially they were turns for the better. After becoming a member of the PSIA group (Professional Ski Instructors of America) we noticed his turns were sharper, more deeply edged, precise and clean. Yea, John was on the right track for a while.
Yep, things began to go awry. I hear tell “Big John” went west – Telluride to be exact. They say once you go that far, it’s pretty tough to come back home … skiing the steeps with his brothers … always on edge … living the fast life … and all that. When he returned, he made what may have been his fatal mistake: he accompanied me on a short circle route around Vermont until we added three more states visiting varied and sundry resorts to sample their “stuff”. All that was in the late season of ’14-15.
Yea, he returned “home” for ’15-16. And, he appeared to be on the mend – quietly returning to “life as normal”. In deed, he diligently assisted the “crew” in clearing brush from the club’s off-piste glades and gullies. Yup, he loves the wild side all right. But here he was righteously clearing the way, merely trying to set it straight for our Buffalo Ski Club (BSC) Extreme Team, Adventure Kids, and Mountain Ranger youth programs.
Then on that fateful day, he took up with the lift operators and one errant patrolman who on Monday, their day off (the club shuts down for a day of maintenance), trekked south to Holiday Valley, a respectable resort not too far south of our humble facilities. And yes, as you guessed it, John ran into Bill, an otherwise respected, normally sagacious, and expectantly safety-minded Ski Patrolman at the BSC.
Yes, I was originally to be with them. Perhaps if I’d have been there …. Well suffice it to say, I may have been a premonition. Or maybe it was divine guidance. Or maybe it was just commonsense. (All others will totally refute that!) . But, I didn’t go. I still wonder what might have happened if ….
So, John was headed to the right exactly matching Bill’s speed, each (patroller and instructor) in synch but also in the other’s blind spot – especially narrowed with their goggles down in position. In the lead, “Jason the younger” adroitly executed a skillful, short-radius turn sharply left. Seemingly ricocheting off the still, evening air, accelerating throughout, he beckoned all. Jason, in quest of a splendid mogul field, bellowed, “Come. Follow me down this narrow cross cut.”
John responded instantly, replicating the skilled move of Jason. But the safety-conscious Bill intending to scope the cut hesitated briefly – as any sane skier should. Then, BAM! The rest is history.
Bill dropped on the spot, stressing and straining his MCL close to his patella. The good news is, he has returned to duty following a couple weeks of rest and recovery (R’n’R). John careened into the woods to meet the appointed tree. He fractured his hip in two places and broke his femur. The saving grace is, following complex ORIF surgery with a titanium insertion, John returned home. Returned that is after an additional ten days or so of intense sub-acute rehabilitation.
You can’t keep a good man down! John miraculously reappeared to distribute the customary BSC bronze metals to his Mountain Ranger group at this year’s concluding, Saturday lesson (crutches and all) award ceremony. John has expressed his intention to join the adaptive program, as a participant to experience and master our club’s mono-ski device which is so marvelously and masterfully deployed by the BSC Adaptive Team.
John’s next of kin and all the club look forward to his complete recovery and anticipate his much-appreciated return to full service … ah, next season that is! The predicted, much-shortened season might well serve this good man with a heart of gold and the best of intentions (perhaps not the best judgment). Good grief, John, take a break (well deserved).
At this moment, the one thing I can say with confidence is, “Only time and the good Lord can tell.”
Come, Ski With Me!
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