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man makes plans and God laughs

So there we were, barreling down Bukovel’s steepest, iciest slope when a wild boar charged out of the woods right into our path. We swerved to avoid him, but D caught an edge and, as the famous Russian movie line goes, he slipped, fell, and came to in a cast. At least that was the version of the events suggested by D’s Moldovan friend. The truth, sadly, is much less exciting than fiction.

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As soon as we had finished cleaning up after our housewarming party, S packed her bags and flew stateside for the home stretch of her pregnancy. D still has some time in Moldova before he also flies home to join her, and he made ambitious plans to take advantage of his temporary bachelorhood. These included a ski trip to Western Ukraine over the extended MLK weekend and an indoor ultimate frisbee tournament in Southern Ukraine. Unfortunately, after the ski weekend, the second half of these plans is no longer tenable.

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According to Wikipedia, in 2012 Bukovel earned the dubious distinction of becoming the fastest growing ski resort in the world. A dozen years earlier, this little corner of the Carpathian Mountains consisted of little more than snow and pine trees. Now, the resort that has sprung up virtually overnight is the largest in Ukraine, boasting more than 60 trails spread across several adjacent peaks and connected by no fewer than 17 ski lifts. The weather was a lot more tepid than expected for this time of the year and instead of the hoped-for powder, there was icy rain, fog, and nothing but artificial snow on the mountain.

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Within minutes of setting foot on the mountain, it became clear that D and his two companions had very different skill levels and expectations for the long weekend. One took a couple of strides and plunged downhill as fast as his skis would carry him. The other made slow arcs across the beginner blue trail. D fell somewhere in the middle. He could not remember the last time he had been on skis, but he was also sure it would all come back to him, just like riding a bike.

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After two easy trails, during which the slower “muskiteer” had been left behind, D’s Moldovan friend led the way across the mountain to an expert black trail, which was short, but much too steep for D’s liking. After watching his friend speed downhill, D thought better of it and spent the entire first day skiing by himself on the medium-difficulty red trails. By the end of that day, D had gained enough confidence to tackle the harder trails, and the next day he and his more daring friend skied together. D did not try to keep pace with his friend, who preferred to hurtle downhill at breakneck speeds. Instead D curved his way back-and-forth across the steep inclines, catching up with his friend at the ski lift.

They skied most of the day like this, until D caught an edge on the last third of a slope they had already skied several times. He slid about 60 feet downhill before he was finally able to arrest his motion. At first D did not realize anything was wrong and simply cursed himself for falling down so stupidly. He lost his skis and one of his ski poles and hiked back uphill while his friend helped him retrieve the skis. It was only after finishing the trail, when they were heading back up the mountain on the ski lift, that D took off his gloves and saw that his left thumb was swelling and turning purple.

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Thankfully there was a long and easy trail that led from the top of the ski lift to the center of the resort. D held a large piece of ice in his hand to help with the pain and swelling as he gingerly made his way down the mountain. There was a medical center within walking distance of the bottom of the trail and within fifteen minutes D’s hand had been x-rayed and casted. The diagnosis is a small avulsion fracture at the base of the thumb — an injury so common to this sport that it is actually known as a skier’s thumb.

It was not the ending to his ski weekend that D had envisioned, but it could have been a lot worse (see Schumacher). Instead of skiing the last day, D rested his sore muscles and treated himself to a massage. And the injury is not so severe that D can’t fend for himself, however awkwardly, now that he is home.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’ve had that exact injury (snowboarding). Sorry bud.

    January 24, 2014
    • Thanks, I feel much better now that the Embassy doctor took off the cast the Ukranians slapped on me and outfitted me with a splint instead.

      January 24, 2014

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