Gnar Face

In the first edition of our blog series Gnar Face, read about an ill-fated bike ride, what it's like to run youth camp after a ski crash, and why one of our staffers decided to become a snowboarder.
Hailey Oppelt Hailey Oppelt
Communications Associate
July 01, 2019

We’ve all had those days. Ranging from brutal crashes to foolish mistakes, when you get after it outdoors you’re bound to eat some dirt and bleed a little. Risk is part of the adventure, and sometimes your card comes up and you find yourself cam over teakettle. Your dedicated Mountaineers staff is no exception – enjoy the funny, painful, and unfortunate things we’ve done to ourselves in the outdoors.

Ants in Your Pants

Tom Vogl, CEO

I was in my early 20’s on a training ride down in Houston, Texas. I was biking along a roadway when I struck a sewer grate, catching my tire and sending me flying over the handlebars. I landed on my face in an absolutely brutal crash, breaking my nose and my jaw in four places. I was disoriented and crawled off the pavement, sitting down on the side of the road to gather my wits.

A car pulled over and this woman started shouting at me – “Are you ok? Are you ok?” I was sitting there, dazed and unable to gauge my injury, when she said “You’re sitting on a mound of fire ants!” I look down in horror and realize that my legs were covered in little red ants, swarming up and around me as I sat, bloodied, on top of their hill. The woman drove me to the hospital, where I spent a week bandaged together and covered in welts. I had my jaw wired shut for 6 weeks after that. I lost 20 pounds, going from 165 to 145 - for perspective, I’m 6’3”. Needless to say, it was not my best ride. 

Crutching Through Camp

Katie Love, Associate Youth Program Manager

It was a glorious powder day. The sun was shining, the snow was deep, and the lift lines were short. After a fun, challenging day on the top of the mountain, I caught an edge on an easy run to the base of the mountain and my skis decided they did not want to let go. Before I knew what happened, I had a face full of snow and Ski Patrol organizing me a lovely parade the rest of the way to the lodge. Adrenaline numbed most of the pain, but couldn’t numb the fact that The Mountaineers Mid-Winter Break Camp started the next day and I was running it.

Just 18 hours after I heard that dreaded popping sound on the mountain, we started 5 days of climbing, rappelling, prussiking, snowshoeing, and playing camp games with 22 campers. I strongly considered putting studs on the bottom of my crutches to minimize the chances of an embarrassing wipe-out in the Hyak Sno-Park lot in front of the easily humored 8-year-olds.

Flash forward six weeks, the doctors confirmed I needed surgery to reconstruct my ACL and there’s just one date available… days before Spring Break Camp! Yet again, I spent the week hobbling on crutches. Thank you to my amazing coworkers who went above and beyond the call of duty to help me provide positive outdoor experiences for our campers. I’m not sure what camp will be like without crutches, but I’m looking forward to finding out this summer!

Photo Courtesy of Katie Love 

Why I Snowboard

Trevor Dickie, Membership Services

Not calling “last run” at the end of a ski day wasn’t a superstition my family entertained. Now, I’m a pretty staunch believer.

It was my first day skiing, ever, and I was having a fantastic time. From my memory, I was steadily improving, getting better at exiting the chairlift, and skiing a little farther away from my parents each run. I was five years old, not yet in kindergarten, and I was the only student in the ski school of Keith Dickie (my father). In hindsight, it’s not a school anyone should have wanted to sign up for, as I was student number two, and I was set to have student injury number two.

After my family had decided it was our last run of the day, I was determined to get off the lift in good form, which I did. I was feeling pretty confident after that great success. I saw another skier hit a little bump at speed and catch some air, and at that age I couldn’t help myself. I hit the bump, and one of my tips stuck into the snow, but its binding didn’t release. My body twisted around my right leg, resulting in a pretty terrible spiral fracture.

I don’t know if ski patrol didn’t think my leg was broken, or if I was too close to the lodge to warrant sled use, but I remember screaming with every step as I was carried over my dad’s shoulder down to Stevens Pass’s Daisy lift.  Eventually, after a drive to the doctor and some x-rays, we found out I needed a large cast. Hip to toe. I was still too small for crutches at this point, so I spent the next few months crawling around - stairs were a particularly exciting event.

Next time I went to the resort, in an act of self-preservation, I strapped into a snowboard, took some lessons, and definitely didn’t call “last run.”

Photo Courtesy of Trevor Dickie

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Anita Elder
Anita Elder says:
Thu, Jul 4, 2019 9:34 AM

Growing up in rural PA, there wasn't much to do besides just being outdoors. If I wasn't hiking off in the woods, I was riding my bike for miles. One advantage of small town living is that parent didn't worry about kids going all over town or on country roads without and adult present. So, my bike rides were epic adventures where I could pretend to be grown, doing my own thing.

Wen I was around eight, I was on one of those bike adventures with my brothers. Our bikes were those banana seat type with the tall handle bars and hand brakes. I was racing my brothers down a hill, going pretty fast, when my rear brake cable decided to pop out and stop braking the rear tire. Since I was gaining too much speed, I had no choice but to use only my front brake. It resulted with me flying over the handle bars and sliding across the asphalt of the road. When I got up, skin was missing from my right cheek and shoulder...I was lucky that nothing was broken! I did have nasty, oozing wounds, over the next week that needed antibiotics to clear up. And, I had some asphalt embedded in my right cheek until I was in my early thirties (it eventually worked its way out).