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December 3, 2013
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Ski patrol heroes

It happened a couple of years back. The year we didn’t have any real snow. Then one day we got about 11 inches of fresh and the snow-starved valley people were out in force.

I saw my friends in line, but had my own plan. I wanted to get to the access gates off of Pete’s lift in Blue Sky. I wanted to get there first.

The snow deep, but it wasn’t deep enough. They’d done lots of logging for the pine-beetle infestation the previous summer. After a couple of steep turns my board slipped on a buried log attempting a hard heelside turn. I sat down hard, right on top of the now unburied log.

I thought it was the worst charlie-horse ever because I tried to stand but couldn’t. I couldn’t because I was impaled. A sharp thumb-sized sawed-off branch had found its way about 5 inches into the back of my thigh, just below my butt cheek.

I was stuck to the log.

After a few test attempts, I got my nerve up and pried myself off, immediately feeling the woozy onset of shock and hot blood flowing down the back of my leg. It was about 10:30 a.m. with no one in sight. Several miles and at least one chairlift separated me from the hospital I was hoping to see soon.

I tried to strap my snowboard on, but I couldn’t. I was attempting to wade through the snow until a couple from Steamboat happened on me and stopped. To be fair, I was sorta screaming “Stop!” at them as loud as I could. One of them went for ski patrol while the other put pressure on what was pretty much my butt-cheek. I wish I had their email.

I may have passed out for a bit because it seemed we heard yelling almost immediately. Four or five Vail Ski Patrolmen found us on their first sweep. I still find this almost impossible as I was well off the beaten path, but there they were.

They set me at ease and got all the information about the injury I could give. They field-dressed the wound, set me as comfortably as possible on the tobaggan and started out for the front side of the mountain.

If you know Vail, you already know what these fellas had to go through to get me out. I don’t know that I can properly explain how difficult a position I’d put them in. Impossibly tight trees, deep snow, and a section where I had to be dragged uphill, breaking trail the whole way. And that was just the first hour.

It took them three difficult hours before they were helping me into the ambulance. They never lost their cool. They never griped about what an ordeal it was to get me out, or why I was there in the first place. They helped me escape a potentially deadly situation. Heroes.

Thanks again, guys. I bet most of you are probably still in Vail. Some of us valley lifers know where we belong. Enjoy your season and let’s all pray for snow.

Shane Santana

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The VailDaily Updated Dec 4, 2013 03:19PM Published Dec 3, 2013 04:42PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.