Skier survives harrowing crash in trees at Vail | VailDaily.com
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Skier survives harrowing crash in trees at Vail

Matt Zalaznick

Not that he would never see either of them again, but how he was going to play with his kids with his hobbling injury and how ski patrollers would get him out of the steep woods that locals call “WFO Trees” – near the bottom of Sun Up Bowl, but above the Sun Up Catwalk that leads to Chairlift 5.

“I was just kind of daydreaming through a line I’ve skied 100 times,” says Silverman, 34, a teacher at the Eagle County Charter Academy in Edwards. “I was skiing the rope line of WFO Trees, got out of sync and caught a tree with my left knee. It pushed my pelvis out of place, shattered and dislocated my hip, so I wasn’t able to move.”

Silverman, who is married with two young sons, had gotten separated Monday afternoon from the friends he was skiing with. He says he and his friends often get split up and don’t always wait for each other to come down a slope.

“The biggest lesson is we can’t do that anymore. We’ve always left our friends – if they don’t show up, big deal,” Silverman says. “But now my friends are demoralized and I don’t like to see them that way.

“The bottom line is, don’t ever leave everybody,” he adds. “Make sure everybody you’re skiing with is who you end with.”

Though he’d never broken a bone before, Silverman said he knew his hip was shattered as soon as he crashed. He knew he needed help, he says, but he also realized he wasn’t in any grave danger.

“After an hour-and-a-half of yelling and screaming with a dislocated hip, I determined I wasn’t seriously injured, so I stayed kind of mellow,” Silverman says. “My first two thoughts were how am I going to wrestle with my two little boys and how were they going to get me out there.”

The knee pads he was wearing probably prevented further injuries and his helmet kept him comfortable and warm while he waited in the snow for help to arrive, Silverman says.

“I stayed warm, and I know I stayed warm because I had my helmet on,” Silverman says.

At one point, Silverman says, he tried to get himself out of the trees.

“I actually tried to stand up and I fell. That’s when I took off my ski and threw them as far as I could so I wouldn’t try that again,” Silverman says.

After about two hours, some doubts began to chip away at his belief somebody would come to rescue him, he says.

“I knew somebody was coming because our ski patrol is the best ski patrol ever,” he says. “I knew they’d come to rope line, but after two hours I started to wonder because it was Monday afternoon and the mountain wasn’t very crowded.”

But it wasn’t long after that troubling thought struck him that Kari Corbin, a local woman who’s been skiing Vail Mountain all her life, found him. Corbin, ironically, was exploring one of the few parts of the mountain she’d never skied.

“All of the sudden Kari came skiing by. I hadn’t seen anybody before that or didn’t see anybody after that,” Silverman says. “It sounds kind of weird, but my grandmother had died that morning. I felt like she sent this person to find me.”

The first time he felt cold during the entire ordeal was when ski patrol arrived, Silverman says.

“As soon as ski patrol got to me, I knew I was going to be alright, so I let my guard down,” Silverman says.

In 31 years of skiing, Silverman says he’d never been in a patrol sled, except when he fell off a chairlift when he was 8 years old.

“I’d been in the snow for about two-and-a-half hours when the ski patrollers got there. They were so professional and so good to me,” Silverman says. “They got me down in the sled, though there were times they had to turn the sled sideways or upside down to get me through these trees. And they never slipped once.”

“Once I was in sled,” he adds, “I knew I was on the road to recovery.”

Silverman says everyone who treated him, from the mountain to the ambulance to Dr. Peters in the emergency room at Vail Valley Medical Center, did an excellent job.

“I was lucky to be injured where I was, from ski patrol down to the hospital,” Silverman says. “Everyone at our hospital is world-class.”

“But it all goes back to Kari, who found me,” he adds, “and the ski patrollers who got me out of there without any more injuries, frostbite or shock.”

Silverman now faces three to six months of rehabilitation. But, he adds, he’s not convinced his ski season is over.

“I’m going back to work on Monday and I plan to take a groomed run in March, with my 3-year-old, on his birthday,” Silverman says.

Silverman says he’s received tremendous support from people throughout the valley, particularly parents of his students of the Charter Academy. The outpouring has reminded him of what a great place the valley is to live, he says.

“I’ve got some issues with people who write into the paper complaining about all sorts of things,” Silverman says. “This is best place in the world, with the best people in the world and the best support groups in the world. The people who write in to complain are just missing the boat.”

“If they’re not happy here,” he adds, “there’s lots of other places to live.”

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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