The Right Place at the Right Time to Save a Skiers Life

Most of us do not wake up thinking, “today is the day I am going save someone’s life.” In many cases we just find ourselves in that situation. Of course, certain professional careers and other jobs are constantly saving the lives of people on a daily basis. But for most people, the saving of a life simply unfolds before them. We find ourselves seeing an accident, or someone is choking, or we just happen to be in the right place at the right time. Blog #21 sets the stage for how I found myself perfectly positioned to save the life of a skier. “40 Blogs in 40 Days about 40 Podcasts” takes its turn with my One Hand Speaks Storytelling Podcast Episode OHS013.

Finding ourselves in a position and situation to save a life depends on a few variables. I believe it is a combination of timing, location, knowledge, and awareness. It is not enough to find yourself in the position to save a life. You need to know how to save that life in that situation. It is also important to have the awareness to realize when a situation can lead to death. I have had basic first aid training in the past and even have skills and experience with wilderness first aid. Having a third degree black in Aikido also allows for some preventative and responsive actions. However, this situation for me was very different. It was not knowing how to stop extreme bleeding in an emergency response situation or knowing CPR and mouth-to-mouth. It was really about awareness and communication. Here is a lead-in story of how I saved a skier’s life at Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah.

Snowbird Ski resort, snowboarding, blog, disability, ski patrol

AlejAndro did his last three days of a 70 day riding season at Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah. That is where he saved a skier’s life.

I had been spending the last few years on my snowboard up at Bogus Basin Ski Resort in Boise, Idaho. I was also in very good physical condition that year. My goal for the season was to get 70 days on the mountain. I was inspired watching some extreme ski/snowboard movie with all these professionals doing amazing things. They were interviewing one of the snowboarder girls about her season. She mentioned she has done 70 days of riding that year. I thought to myself, “if I cannot actually be a professional I can at least do what the pros do!” The snow had ended here in Boise, Idaho and Bogus Basin Ski Resort was closed. I only needed three more days to attain my goal. Giving in the rumors I decided to try my skills with the “greatest snow on earth.” The resorts outside Salt Lake City, Utah were still open and in full swing. So I got in my car, grabbed my snowboard gear and my Aikido uniform. I also wanted to do some Aikido training in the evening. Being in healthy and strong shape also allowed me to get in some extra martial art training. The Aikido in Salt Lake City, Utah at that time was a sweet as the snow at Snowbird. As ready as I felt I was, I had no idea what was about to happen on my last day. It was the last tram ride up and I was about to take my last ride surfing the snow down the mountain.

Bogus Basin Ski Resort, Boise, Idaho, Snowboarding

AlejAndro spent many years snowboarding up on Bogus Basin Ski Resort in Boise, Idaho.

After a most glorious three days of snowboarding in the day and Aikido training at night I was on the very last tram ride up to the top of Snowbird Ski Resort. I had never been so high on a mountain. I believe it is close to 11,000 feet. The skiing in that area was about to close and no one would be allowed up that high after the tram-lift shut down. As I was the only passenger on the tram and totally alone, I sat and watched the scenery go by. I realized the opportunity to watch the sunset would only add to my experience. It is not often I have the chance to watch the sunset on top of a mountain. With a lot of darker clouds coming near my location and snow starting to fall I thought I might not get my opportunity. When the tram stopped I stepped off and walked to my vantage point. The moment was calm and still and serine. I sat gazing at the beauty of the setting sun. As soothing as the moment was I became aware of a certain feeling. I felt like I was waiting for something. I even spoke out loud to myself and said, “I wonder what I am waiting for?” I truly had the feeling I was waiting for something because the sun had set, the tram was closed, and I had not started my last and final run. I was just sitting there under the tram station. I also thought this was weird as Aikido practice was starting soon and I needed to get down the mountain. Regardless, I just sat there waiting and I did not know why. That is when I noticed something strange and out of place.

sunset, snowboarder, beauty

One of the many benefits of snowboarding or skiing is to be able to watch the sunset at the top of a mountain.

l took a closer look down the mountain to be sure I was seeing what I thought I saw. It was a skier with his skis on his shoulder walking up the mountain right toward me. This was odd because all the lifts we now closed. The only way to go was down the mountain. Right at that moment two skiers stopped to talk to the guy. They chatted for a couple of seconds and then the two rode off down the mountain. The walking skier was still far away and steadily moving right in my direction. Then two Ski Patrol people stopped and talked to the guy. This interaction was noticeable longer as they each took turns in conversation. It was obvious to see the skier who was walking did not want to listen to the Ski Patrol or take their advice. I saw a lot of posturing and resistance on the part of the walking skier and frustration in the Ski Patrol. The next thing I saw was Ski Patrol ride off down the mountain. As the skier continued his walk up the mountain toward me I realized he is the reason why I was waiting. What I did not realize was he was the man who’s life I was about to save.

ski life, tram, ski resort

On longer runs or at more famous and established ski resorts you can take a tram ride up the mountain. These enclosed carry-cars offer shelter from the cold and offer the chance to talk with the other passengers.

It actually took the guy a fair amount of time to get to the base of the tram where I was sitting. During that time the weather took a strong turn and it was starting to snow a lot. I sat there watching him walk toward me and I thought to myself, “I had been here waiting for something and this guy it. Whatever he has to say is going to be good.” I don’t think he noticed me the entire time he was walking the straight line right toward me. He had his head down the entire time. I figured he wanted to get to the tram. Yet as he started to get very close he was still walking exactly in my direction. As he took his last few steps in reaching his destination, which put him right in front of me, he looked up and noticed I was sitting right there. In a confused and surprised tone he asked, “What are you doing here?” I replied in my best as-a-matter-of-fact tone, “I am waiting for you!” He seemed even more confused and slightly unsettled by my response as we both just looked at one another. I then asked him, “What are you doing here?” He said he wanted to take the next tram ride higher up the mountain. I told him the tram is closed and the only way to go is down. Plus, it was really starting to snow quite heavily and beginning to get dark. When I told him again we needed to go down the mountain he got very resistant and insisted on going up the mountain.

This was now looking like the scenario with the Ski Patrol. I could not understand why this guy was so against going down and demanding about going up. I took a moment to really look at him both physically and internally to understand his intention. I then noticed he was wearing blue jeans. I know for some skiers wearing jeans is all about style, but I did not think that was the case with this guy. Plus, at 11,000 feet on a mountain in the winter jeans are not a good idea. I asked him where he lived and he said, “I live in Florida.” He then told me he flew in last night and his friends have skied off without him. Three things told me this situation could get real bad real fast. 1, this guy from Florida at 11,000 feet in blue jeans; 2, it was starting to get dark; and 3, it was now snowing incredibly hard. I knew the best thing to do was to go down mountain and I could of left him at anytime. But I was waiting for something and this guy was it. Additionally, it became clear to me this guy did not know he needed help and I was not going to leave him alone as the Ski Patrol or his friends did. And it was a good thing I stayed with him or he would of died.

To listen to the story of what happened next and how I saved this skier’s life I invite you to click and listen to my One Hand Speaks Storytelling Podcast Episode OHS013. Please feel free to share this blog or my podcast and I ask you to offer a comment with your opinion and feedback! Thanks!  

P.S If you have ever heard a man from Florida tell a story about a one-handed guy who saved his life at Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah, pass this blog along to him!

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