Saturday, March 21, 2009

Natasha Richardson and skiing

She just looks like she would be fun to hang with, doesn't she? In every picture or film I have seen her in, she looks like a fun, vivicious, gregarious woman. Married to Liam Neeson for many years, of course, everyone knows by now she died while skiing. This was not a Sonny Bono accident where she was blasting down the slopes and hit a tree. She was receiving lessons on a beginner's slope when she fell and hit her head. A number of people have asked why she wasn't wearing a helmet. As a huge fan of skiing (and the incredible feeling of being so high you can literally hear the silence), I would never even think of wearing a helmet. I have been snow skiing more than fifty times. The incredible rush of flying down the mountain on your skis would somehow be compromised with a helmet. Yes, I know, better to be safe than sorry but it has NEVER dawned on me to wear one. If you fall, you are trained to fall in a certain way where your body, being relaxed, takes the brunt of the blow. I have fell with the best of them and have hurt my back a couple of times, but have never landed on my head. I can't wait till I get back to Colorado and visit Dillon, A Basin or Mary Jane again. I very rarely go on a blue slope, never on a black one, and always on the green (beginner) slopes. There is something special about taking the lift to the very top of the mountain, taking twenty to thirty minutes to ski back down, thighs hurting so bad you are crying like a baby and then doing it all over again. True bliss and one journey I would never think of putting a helmet on to enjoy.


Here is a map of Winter Park. I always took the lift to Mary Jane, which is the at the top of the runs, on top of Winter Park. What fun!

3 comments:

Matt said...

As an avid skier as well, I must say nowadays I don't think of skiing without a helmet. That having been said, I almost always ski aggressively, and my favorite time of year skiing is mid- to late January - short lines, frigid temperatures. Adding a helmet to that mix only feels like a heavier cap, and certainly keeps me warm, in addition to its protective effects. As a pediatrician, I push for helmet use with many sports, including skating, skiing, cycling, skateboarding, and even sledding. But given all the above, Richardson's injury was certainly more of a fluke, it must have been a weird combination of fall, force, injury to a particularly sensitive area of the skull and underlying blood vessels, and even maybe underlying hypertension or some other vascular condition. It will be interesting to see if her case is examined medically.

Suz said...

As a rider, I can tell you nothing is as exhilirating as having the wind blow your hair back while you scream down the road. Done it many times without a helmet (gotta love those KS state laws!), sometimes at speeds that would have guaranteed a closed casket had I not been lucky (and had there been anything left of me to put in a casket). Whether you are on skis, a motorcycle, skateboard or bicycle, that feeling of freedom and sheer speed is intoxicating, liberating and unbeatable.

But...as someone who has been down on a motorcycle WHILE WEARING A HELMET, I can tell you I would never even consider riding even a bicycle without one ever again. I didn't crash hard, and it was at a track, not on the streets, but my head hit first. I don't recall letting go of the bike, or how I ended up on my face in the grass, but there I was - a split second from thinking "hey, this corner is fun!" As I pulled the grass and dirt from my face shield, I thought wow - glad I spent the extra bucks and got a good one.

Even the slightest bump on the head can have the most egregious effects, Richardson's case in point. In fact, right now I have a dear friend who is in rehab, relearning how to walk, speak, eat and move on her own thanks to a helmet. It saved her life after the car she was passing turned left in front of her. She hit it at about 80 mph. It is a miracle she is alive at all, but the doctors said that while her bodily injuries were severe, her helmet literally saved her life. She spent three weeks in a coma, but she is still here. You should never, ever take your brain for granted, no matter how cool and free you feel teetering on that addictive edge between life & death. PERIOD.

RR said...

Thanks to both of you. Suz, how are you? I think of you often and hope you are OK. I am not some stubborn old fart who won't listen to reason (yes I am). Maybe next time I go skiing, I'll put on that helmet. I would never ride a motorcycle without a helmet. I used to then kissed a fenderwell at about 35mph and that taught me a serious lesson. I guess I don't think of myself as going fast enough down a ski slope to require one. I ski very cautiously, for my safety and everyone else's.

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