Bouvier back on her feet, in the air |

Bouvier back on her feet, in the air

Ian CroppVail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyVails Claudia Bouvier launches out of the pipe at the Apen/Snowmass Open earlier this season. After breaking her neck Dec. 30, 2006, Bouvier never doubted that shed get back on her skis and into the air once again.

VAIL, Colorado Only hours after Claudia Bouvier broke her neck skiing, the question she asked her doctor wasnt if shed be skiing again, it was when.And just skiing wasnt going to be good enough Bouvier wanted to know when she could jump and return to competition.Now, one year after her injury, Vails Bouvier is not only back, shes making her way to the top of the freeskiing world. Last month, the 21-year-old Battle Mountain grad took third in a slopestyle event at the U.S. Freeskiing Open at Copper Mountain and followed that up with third place the next weekend at the Aspen/Snowmass Open halfipe.When I was sitting in third (at the U.S. Freeskiing Open), they asked me if I was nervous to be in third because I may get bumped into fourth, Bouvier said. I told them, No, Im just happy to be skiing again.On Dec. 30, 2006, Bouvier was skiing at Beaver Creeks terrain park when she fell off an S-shaped rail.Right when I fell, my friend, Junior Martinez, ran over and held me down, Bouvier said. My first instinct was to get up and move around and shake things off. But he said, Im sure youre fine, and I was lucid and everything, but he still said, I think you should stay down, and he held my neck for 40 minutes.Bouvier was transported to the Vail Valley Medical Center, where the doctors gave her the diagnosis.They said, Your head is fine, but the bad news is you have a broken neck, and I was bawling, and I lost it, she said. I was so scared, but I didnt ever question whether or not Id ski again for some reason. Those thoughts never went through my head.The injury compressed C6 and C7 vertebraes required a few surgeries and left Bouvier with four screws and a piece of a cadavers bone in her neck.After the first operation, we started to talk about the schedule and when everything could happen, like when I could get on a bike or run or ski, Bouvier said. The timelines they gave me were always much longer. With every appointment, it was shorter and shorter.

Even with the assurance that she would ski again, Bouvier had some fears, like losing her Rossignol sponsorship.I was so scared they were going to drop me, but they were so supportive and so nice. They sent me a big basket with cards, M&Ms and T-shirts, she said. They gave me the same support as before, even though I didnt have the results last year.Bouvier a lifelong athlete had a bit of trouble with the inactivity but had plenty of support.My mom and I went to Maui for two months, and my friends and family were really good about helping me and hanging out with me, she said.In April, as the ski season was coming to a close in Vail, Bouvier hit the mountain.

It was hard to keep my feet on the ground, but I knew I had to, Bouvier said.Shes such a strong person, said Nikita Apostol, Bouviers best friend. She might be small (5 feet, 1 inch tall), but shes got a thunder about her.Bouviers father, Daniel, who was a freeskiing pioneer in his native France, wasnt too surprised that his daughter made such a quick recovery.Dr. (Todd) Peters did a really good job, and the recovery is actually faster than (a torn) ACL, he said. She was skiing soon after, and they just told her not to jump for a while.In August, eight months after breaking her neck, Bouvier went to New Zealand for a camp and was finally back in the air.

Heading into this season, Bouvier was still a bit apprehensive as to how shed ski.I was scared about missing a season and about where Id stand in comparison to the other girls, she said.While Bouvier said she has no problem with the jumps, she gets some jitters with rails.Im still trying to get my confidence back on rails, she said. If Im going to do a rail, every now and then Ill get the picture in my head of falling, and it kind of freaks me out, and Ill go around it.But nobody can tell, as Bouvier is skiing just as good as anyone out there.People say, Wow, you broke your neck, and youre skiing? Apostol said. They kind of have to do a double take. Even in the snowboarding community here, shes an inspiration.While her father is proud of her showing on the snow, hes equally proud of what she does in the little free time she has.Shes doing really well at school, he said.Bouvier, a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is on track to graduate in four years and is looking to attend medical school.For the time being, though, Bouvier is doing what she loves. Bouvier just finished filming a movie in Mount Baker, Wash., and will be competing this weekend in Big Bear, Calif.Even without my injury, Id be happy with how Im doing, she said. This is the best start to a season Ive had in my ski career.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or

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