A switch in, a switch out. Cut over the ramp next to the orange-padded bollard with a little jump before an immediate turn. A look back to see Rob cutting across behind me and I eye The Rond Point ahead. We’re not stopping: we’ve just come from a few pints at La Folie Douce. Straight down for us. I’m hitting some speed now but it’s getting congested and even more icy so I pull to the side and cut back, slowing myself and judging the distances in front. I pick a route and head on but as I’m going for my second turn – one which I need to take because I’m right on the edge of the slopes’ curve – my plank sticks. I was at the point of the turn, which is of course is what slows you down, so I was going pretty quickly (not flat-out but fast enough) and I just stopped. Never great really: simply stopping like that. I went straight over on my right side and the air just left me. I’d no time to react – probably a good thing as I couldn’t stick my arm out. I hit the deck like a train.
I’ve gone over on some black runs before and just kept sliding down, hitting the bumps and the mogels en route, but this was probably a green (albeit and damned icy one) and I just stopped dead.
It takes me a good thirty seconds before I even move, and by the time I do I have three or four ski instructors around me – clearly concerned – and asking if I’m ok. “Yea man, yea… that was a bit of a punch though!” They cautiously laugh, clearly still concerned “Qui, it was tres hard”. One helps me off with my other ski – the first went flying – as I try to gather breath and assess the damage. I remember thinking almost straight off: “ribs”. I say to myself again “fucking done at least a few ribs”. But as I gather myself, and turn to sit my arse slope… it’s the right hip that’s the worry. Bugger the ribs. Fuck the ribs: I think I might’ve done my pelvis.
Im sit for a good few minutes, looking at Rob who’s stopped about five yards down the slope ahead of me, before I feel I’ve got both the strength and desperation to get the hell off the mountain. I struggle up, clip my boots in, thank the group of concerned instructors behind me and gingerly head on down.
It’s not easy and I’m sure something’s wrong. Every right turn’s a frustrating niggle. Please, please, please don’t let that be my season. I’ve only just starting thinking I can actually feed eighteen and ski too. It’s the first time in my new boots. It’s the first time it’s even remotely snowed since I’ve got here. Please please don’t be fucked.
We get to the the bottom and Rob says “No pints then”, watching me struggle to bend, unclip my boots, take them off and put on the trainers I’ve just tipped out of my rucksack. “Piss off Rob”, I say, :”Of course we’re going to Jacks”. We make our way into the bar but I know I’m not right. It’s still ‘happy hour’ so we go for a jug but… I know I’m not right. I turn to him, tell him to look after my stuff, and walk out. Over the road is the Medical Centre.
It’s up a flight of stairs. Of course it is. This is going to be expensive but those stairs make me realise I need to get this checked.
I’m in, filling in forms, phoning my managers to tell them not to panic, and into the x-ray room, salopettes and pants on the other side of the room, before you can say “La Foiie Douce and Crash”.
I’m on a trolley, looking up at the x-ray machine, and thinking of my Dad and how he must have felt, seventeen or eighteen years ago – his shoulder in pieces – in a similar room to this at the bottom of the mountain. But I’m thinking I’ve skied off the piste so it can’t be anywhere near as bad as that was.
I’m not ringing Mum!! I was thinking of ringing James – my big brother – but what’s the point. All I’d say is “I think I might be fucked: don’t tell Mum”.
The doctor walks in. He speaks almost perfect English and distinctly reminds me of “Emmett ‘Doc’ Brown” from Back to the Future. He is half Scottish – half French and clearly concerned as he turns me on my side and examines what is now a worryingly enflamed side-arse. Fifteen minutes later, and x-ray complete, he expresses that I’m a lucky boy who shouldn’t ski for a while and could do with some pretty strong anti-inflammatories. I’m surprised too. I can hardly move.
I get dressed… slowly… and head next door into his office: it’s ‘la cave’ of nic-naks. His table is awash with mini-toys, both cuddly and not, miniature statues of knees and spines and a clutter of showpiece medical paraphernalia. All around him the walls are filled with framed memorabilia: pictures of him and his family, awards from years gone by and much more recent too, and him shaking hands with the Queen. His OBE hanging alongside, I question him on it whilst scanning the others – wondering about his time in Peking and whether he speaks Chinese too – and also what olympic certificate that is and whether he got a medal!. He is clearly a man of great mystery and marvel. I tell him so as he leads me out. ’Twas a pleasure to meet him despite the circumstances. A character indeed. Perhaps ‘Doc Brown’ has nothing on him.
A switch in, a switch out, and I almost fucked my season. But a hundred euros well spent on piece of mind.
I’m not looking forward to testing the movement at 7am: and just incase you wondered… I sleep on my right. Perhaps not tonight.