Life at High Altitude: Danger Leads to Trust.
The family trip to Sun Peaks ski resort has been a benchmark occasion in my life. Some people track the years through, birthdays, Christmas’ or Halloweens, but for my family, our growth is measured by our experiences on the cold face of the mountain.
December 2006, 4 years old
All I can see is white. I’m lost and confused. I know that its bitter cold outside, and the snow is falling sideways. I then turn to my hearing; the howling of the wind, the sound of the air as large objects shoot past me. The sound of my breath. I’m starting to panic; I don’t know where my parents are, I haven’t seen them for hours. They told me to follow the man in the red outfit who was helping a couple of other kids. David. My feet are cold and aching, and I can feel tears welling up in my eyes. I’m shaken when I look down after shifting my feet; I’ve started to slide! I’m picking up speed as I try to remember what David told me. Pizza. French fries. Pizza. French fries. I try to look around again but to no avail. Snow has clogged my goggles. I can’t see my feet and can’t keep slowing down. I’m panicking, when WHAM! My whole world turns from white to red as I hear a voice: “Oi! Watch where ya goin’ mate. Let’s get you guys inside, this storms really startin’ ta pick up!”
I then begin to feel quite warm inside and the fear fades to calm, and I see a big mitten swipe across my goggles. A smiling face appears above me and I can make out the lights from the café right behind it.
“Ya want some hot chocolate mate?”
I nod and we begin to slide towards the building, enveloping us in a warm, golden light that slices through the darkness of the storm behind us…
January 2013, 11 years old.
My brother and I were carving down a fairly steep hill and enjoying the view of the rolling white mountains. The sky was clear, with whisky jacks warbling and whizzing around, and the trees at the peak of the mountain where covered so thickly in last night’s snow that they appeared as large white columns that glistened in the afternoon sun. No hint of branches, leaves, or any kind of green. As I turned away from the scenery and faced back downhill, I saw my brother making his way down the face of the hill. He was only eight years old and didn’t know the mountain as well as I did. Because of the heavy snowfall, most of the mountain was perfect for skiing, but there were spots where the snow was deceptive; Luring you with the promise of smooth skiing only to stop you dead and knock you down. I saw some movement in the corner of my vision. Just another snowboarder. Still, it left me feeling anxious. Like we where in the wrong place. I slowed to watch him carve and grab his board after making a jump. I cheered and he flashed me a thumbs up. Feeling slightly better, I turned towards my brother to comment on the event. My veins became as cold as the mountain around me as I realized that he wasn’t in sight. I frantically started to ski down to see if he was up ahead.
Finally, I got sight of him; and time slowed down. I saw exactly what he was heading for. A patch of “false powder”. He was accelerating downhill, probably the worst thing he could have done, and all I could do was watch as his skies entered the patch of snow, dipped down and out of sight, and his scream as he left his skies and began flight as he flew about four feet through the air, to hit a hard spot past the patch with a sickening crunch. I couldn’t see what happened next. I was too busy moving as fast as I could to get to him. Avoiding the patch, I saw a skid trail and about 5 meters from the point of impact was Lucas. Not moving. I rushed over with a million thoughts flying through my head: “Is he ok? Is he dead? Where are his poles? How am I going to get Help?”
As I reached him, I quickly realized he wasn’t dead, but there was no way I could move him. His wrist was broken, I could see by the way that it was twisted. He was also very pale and breathing shallowly, almost hyperventilating and sweating really hard. I had no idea what to do. What was I, an 11-year-old kid with no phone, medical training, or any kind of first aid knowledge supposed to do? I had a choice: Leave him and go get help, which I felt was a bad option because I couldn’t leave him alone. I could stay with him until help came to us, but this wasn’t great either. I looked at him again and all I could see was fear. He was in immense pain, but he forced some words out.
“Don’t… Leave… Me….”
I began to tear up, as I was terrified as well. So, I screamed. Screamed for help so the someone somewhere could scoop us up to salvation. For what felt like hours I screamed. I screamed until I couldn’t anymore, and right before I was about to give up hope, I heard a reply. Like angels, they floated over the snow into the glade, and I couldn’t understand a single word they said. I realize now that they were German, but at the time I didn’t care, I just pointed to my brother and kept saying
“Help. Help him. Please.”
They saw the state of my brother and the couple scooped him up and made him a makeshift splint to keep his wrist still. The man draped him over his back like a sack of potatoes and motioned me to follow. I grabbed his skies and poles, and followed them the rest of the way down the mountain…
January 2016, age 14.
I’m lying on my back, recalling these memories. The broken wrist, the young fear of the storm. The accident- right. I think about what has just happened. Today was the first day I had tried snowboarding. I was taking some lessons, when Mom wanted to take me up the lift that I didn’t know how to board. Then I was getting off and I… fell backwards? I shake my head. Not sure why my thoughts are so scattered. But I do remember to pain. Like a spike of molten lead getting shoved up directly into my wrist. The station guards rushing over. The temporary cast… It’s too much work. As I look up and see the sky and trees moving as I lie there, feeling the sled bump with every jolt of the snowmobile. I feel sleep coming on. However, I first remember their faces. David. The couple. The Red cross employees. I can still feel the pain in my wrist, and my head is spinning from the drugs. But right before sleep hits and the trip ends for the year, I smile.
After all, there’s always a next Christmas.
- Alliteration: “The sky was clear, with whisky jacks warbling and whizzing around…” paragraph 3
- Hyperbole: I rushed over with a million thoughts flying through my head. Paragraph 3
- Rule of 3’s: David. The couple. The Red cross employees. Paragraph 4
- Personification: “but there were spots where the snow was deceptive…” Paragraph 2