We amateur ski-bums who spend a day or two every winter on the slopes know what it feels like to wipe out. That feeling of losing control when you get stuck in a rut, or hit a patch of ice with a little too much of an angle and your board or skis start slipping. The disorientation of being tossed around, trying not to twist your knees. The moment after what seems like an eternity when you finally stop, sit up, and wonder what the hell just happened.
It's comforting, then, that mere mortals like ourselves aren't the only ones who feel that moment of shame and embarrassment upon taking a nosedive during a day on the slopes. Professionals occasionally screw up too, and Alaska's a prime spot to do it in.
That's what happened to professional skier -- and Olympic gold medalist -- Ted Ligety during an April trip to Alaska for a heli-skiing adventure filmed by the company of legendary ski filmmaker Warren Miller.
Along with his friend Marcus Caston, Ligety learned the hard way that when it comes to winter sports, everything's bigger in Alaska.
"Before I got to Alaska, I thought I would have no problem simply stepping out of the heli, and start crushing. It quickly became apparent that there is a learning curve not to be missed out on," Caston said in a post on Warren Miller Entertainment. "The mountains were much bigger, steeper, and longer than I ever would have thought. Everything in Alaska is on a different level of huge."
Ligety must have felt the same way. The pro took some big spills while he was here, one so big it knocked off his GoPro camera, never to be seen again. From Ligety's blog:
Generally I've made it through the last couple winters without any major crashes (knock on wood). This week filming with Warren Miller, I've taken 2 pretty good tumbles. The first I tomahawked pretty good and lost my GoPro so unfortunately I lost all the footage from the crash and the day, which was our best. On my second big crash, we weren't filming because the sun was no longer on the face we were skiing, so I took fun run with another GoPro on a line I had already skied. The line was a pretty simple steep face into about a 20 foot cliff band. I was trying to lose a little speed coming into the cliff when I hit a hard piece of snow or a rock and the sluff took out my tails simultaneously. I was fine, just another lesson learned: don't throw speed checks in the gut where the sluff is going.
The first comment on the YouTube video has some great advice: "Next time you fall off a cliff, try not to wave your arms so much. It just doesn't look cool."
Sage words of wisdom, but at least we can take comfort in the fact that even the best of the best wipe out occasionally.
Our Alaska takes a look at the people, places, activities and wildlife that make Alaska great. There's the Alaska that many people know from reality television, and then there's Our Alaska. If you have a video that puts the spotlight on the positive, educational or unique aspects of Alaska and its people, send links or submissions to ben(at)alaskadispatch.com.