First, I navigated a few hundred feet of terrain that was as steep as McConkey’s at Squaw, and similarly boney with much longer exposure. Then I hucked the cliff band in the photo. I landed the cliff, just barely shorted it actually. I wanted to be a touch to the skiers left of where I landed, thus avoiding a protruding rock.. Skiing in, I was blown away at how flat light it was over there in the shade. That confused me for a sec. But more so, it took the accuracy out of take-off trajectory. Anyway, shorting was no big deal, my skis tapped rock, but it was so steep that I landed fine and was on my way, just a bit in the back seat, and still struggling to see. This may not have been a problem, I may have been able to sit up from the back seat and keep going if I did not have that mandatory left turn to negotiate in order to avoid the rocks to the right of the track. Hitting those at 50+MPH was not an option. I was really just kind of asking too much to pull off that turn on 50 degree wind buff while sitting up from the back seat. The next thing I know, I was high side catapulted after touching down for a moment and I am airborne, thinking “that…just…happened.”
Note the impressive spacing between divot mark number one and divot mark number 2, in between which my skis and a pole are seen lying there.
At this point, I proceeded to tomahawk down 45-50 degree windbuff… for days. The inertia was incredible. I wear an item of gear that when activated by pulling a handle, inflates a pillow type thing around head and neck creating an air pocket for avalanche burial survival. Amidst the tumble, I figured, “why not pull the handle?” the pillow will provide good protection. I could not reach the handle because the centrifugal force would not let me bring my arms in. My jacket was up, so I couldn’t see much. Just felt myself tumbling like someone put me in the clothes dryer.
The Bec Des Rosses is about 2700 feet from starting line to finish line. I rag dolled a good third of the face. 800ft? maybe 1000ft? Timy, who was standing at the finish line after laying down an impressive line for his first attempt at the Verbier Extreme, said to me “man, I thought your boots were gonna come off” He also estimated my tumble to be 1700 ft. I think he is wrong, I mean, we all know that Timy is at least a little bit off, right? But no one was out there with measuring tape or a laser range finder, let’s just say it was one hell of a wipeout.
To be honest, it was not that scary. I knew that it was a clean fall zone, with the exception of that one rock I tumbled over. That was of concern, but I knew it was a cliff band that I would go over, not a wall of rock that would stop me, or pin-ball me into a change of direction toward bigger cliffs. I just tried to relax because I knew there was no stopping it. I never impacted anything hard, and I walked away with an aggravated right knee and bruised/tweaked ankle, maybe a week off of snow. As soon as I was able to dig my heels into the snow and stop, I waved that I was A-OK. I kept waving over and over and over because I knew that everyone was concerned. And when I say everyone, I mean the thousand or so people that were present and watching, the people who may have been watching on live feed, the local news, Eurosport, French, Swiss and Italian TV.
I was disappointed to bail like that in front of everyone. And it was humiliating that a heli plucked me off the mountain via long line. If you look at the picture, you can see that my skis are way up the hill, in between divots 1 and 2. It would have taken me forever to climb up to them, and I was waiting for the adrenaline to subside because then I would know if I was injured or not.
In terms of the outcome, it rattled me a bit mentally more than anything else. It was humbling. I watched CR go with a much less dramatic crash, so that hit home. Being in a tumble like that, in which there is just no stopping, no matter what, you really realize that the mountains and gravity are the boss. I thought to myself mid tumble “well, I knew if I fell here I would go for a ride, now, I am going for that ride.” It was a proud line, a zero or hero scenario. I got a taste of zero, but I will be back to the Bec Des Rosses for redemption.