Strange Phenomena

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Life and Death on Skis

Those who crave only the bizarre and unexplainable should probably skip most of this section except at the last story. For example, one entry simply recounts an excellent day of skiing with insights about why perfectly good skiers so often go to their deaths for apparently no reason. It is hoped that this information will help to decrease silly unwarranted chit-chat about possible suicide by perfectly healthy individuals.



Scary Ski Trail Names

A tennis player once bragged to me "Tennis is more dangerous than skiing any day. Tennis emergency room admissions outnumber those of skiing nine to one."

I chuckled and replied, "Really, when was the last time a tennis player hit a tree at ninety miles per hour?" Here are a few ski trail names sequenced in columns to acquaint the reader with just what we're really talking about here.





Rigor Mortis

Knee Cap

Spinal Tap

Suicide Six



Your Funeral

Lover's Leap



Sunday Mourning

Grim Reaper

Angel Street

Bone Breaker

Rue Morgue

Bone Daddy

Heaven's Gate

Splint Maker

Cemetery Ridge



Ambulance Alley

Cryptic Challenge

Death's Door

God's Throne








Uppr+Lowr Lumbar

Red Snow


Gabriel's Horn


Blood n' Guts

Coffin Nail


Uller's Delight


One year there were two deaths before Christmas at a resort I will not name. I made the joke "Have you heard about the good deal they're giving this season? Lift tickets, equipment rental, and funeral services all for one low price".


March 13, 2006

2:22 PM


Mt. Ellen in Vermont
The following adventure occured at Sugarbush North - Mt. Ellen in Vermont. I wrote it up in story format for one of my books using a friend, Dirk A Lokison, as protagonist because I thought it would be too personal in the particular context to have it about myself. The part about Death was a thought, not a vision.

April 19, 1988

Let us note the duality and fleeting nature of our emotional reactions and how opposite emotions enhance each other. The individual, when in a horrific life and death struggle far in the wilderness, yearns only for warm food and tea, fireside at his hearth.

Later, as he sits sipping this tea, looking into the flames, with the heat soothing his aching muscles, how splendid seems the memory of the terrible beauty of the wilderness and the dreadful threat of his adventure.


Winter Choices

Dirk the Sun Warrior, and skier, stands poised in the wind looking down a long frozen slope which is far too steep for his mediocre ability. The thick ice is covered with a thin layer of new powder. The ice crystals sparkle like billions of tiny diamonds in the cold sun. He is in a place so high that he can see the Atlantic Ocean a hundred and fifty miles away. The terrain on each side has sharp spikes of dead krumholtz and then slopes away so steeply that he cannot tell what, if anything, lies below.

As a dark cloud passes over the sun, he feels a fierce chill and suddenly Death, in his black robe, appears at his side, points a bony finger down the slope, and seductively urges "Go ahead!" How grimly now Dirk contemplates the name of this trail, which in the safety of the base lodge had made him laugh - The Avenue of Corpses. "Oh, if only I could just be safe and warm at the Naked Eye Cabaret, drinking a Brandy Alexander, and snuggling with one o' me little dainties!" he repents.

One week later, after a good rare prime rib at Jacob Wirth's, as Dirk sits comfortably relating his grim tale to an exquisite young beauty at the Naked Eye, how strangely his heart burns for the chill wind of the mountains and the glamor of the snow.


Two Journal Entries

Jan 10, 1989

During a day of partial sun, ski Jay Peak. Start with Harmony Lane. Very icy. Then Interstate. Many snow-boarders. Then Perry Merrill to Queensway. Begin mastery of parallel turns near ledges on narrow icy part. My legs are much stronger this year and my speed is increasing a good deal.

Have sinewy hamburger at lunch. More Queensway, but as wind exposes ice, stay only on lower part of Harmony. [I must ski perpendicular to the fall line. This is essentially skate-able ice. I must find small pockets of snow where I can reverse direction just before going into the woods to die.  Kid ahead of me hits stone wall just six feet short of the end. He looks to be dead. Medical people are not moving him as they await help]. Leave about 3:15 PM as ambulance arrives. Amazing sunset views on way back.

Mar 27, 1990

Start up what I think is one of the Borvig Chairs at Attitash 11 AM. It's cold going up. I see astoundingly steep trails which, by sound of skiers, seem very frozen. Don't remember the names. View at top is also astounding. Ask two chaps where I am. They tell me.

I start down sunny frozen-granular Saco. Guy dressed in bright red from head to toe Telemarks past me. I see him fall way down below. When I catch up I ask him which is easiest trail. He is a Russian Olympic contender and tells me to ski down with him. We go down upper part of Ptarmigan together. He continues on it.

I go onto Saco. Very steep and very frozen. A lot of work. I follow Ammonusuc down. Look for my Russian friend wishing I had asked him a bit more about things overseas. Find East Borvig Chair. Take Far Out to icy Father Out. Reach incredible speed coming in to lift [Actually only 70 mph max but the snow is hard and the shock-to-knees factor very great].

Inside Out. Up again, then Councilor's Run. Then Thad's Choice from the top across to Learning Center. Get off at mid-unload and do Lower Thad's Choice. This actually has some powder on it and is superb. Do this twice more with great speed [Carving huge arks and spraying snow. Tremendous strain on legs]. Do Learning Center.

Up again, thinking of a way down which turns out to be un do-able. Down Thad's taking a little spill because left ski goes where it wants as I turn right. NASTAR Slope is in use by racers. Messy meatball sub for lunch. Up Top Notch Chair, seeking Northwest Passage, but end up same way as before except little elbow to right along final stretch.

Up Borvig, down Far Out to Father Out. Thad's Choice from top down to NASTAR Slope now open. Reach breakneck speed because skis won't cut. At Top Notch Chair realize that I should be at Summit Chair because I want easy access to Northwest Passage. Go to Summit Lift.

Am so tired decide to skip upper mountain. Do Lower Thad's and Learning Center. Down Inside Out. In turning left at one point ski wants to go straight and I just miss ramming two people [There is more to this. Happened once before late in the day at Sunday River Maine. Legs would not respond. Nearly went off snow ramp down into trees and boulders]. I try to turn but legs do not obey. Try again. On third try I turn sharply. One individual looks very disgruntled as I spray them with snow.

[I now reckon this to be Late-in-the-Day Syndrome where an entire day of compacting the lower lumbar cartilage cuts off nutrition to sciatic nerves rendering legs partially dysfunctional. I believe that this is why sometimes even the best of skiers get killed going into the woods at high speed. A good preventative would be 50 mg Vitamin B Complex at breakfast and lunch. Or to quit at first sign of dysfunction or at least take it very easy, but with the vitamins you shouldn't have to].

Cross to Thad's down to Lodge. As I'm leaving run into two guys I met before first run. Turns out they are from Greece. Of course I ask, but they tell me Mt. Olympus is too steep to ski.


Beyond the Head Wall
Sometime after the above events I was skiing another resort which I will not name. I was taking a shortcut, skiing out of bounds on an unauthorized trail open only to the paramedic ski patrol people. Clouds had blocked the sun so that the lighting was very uniform without shadow.

In a flat narrow area bounded with shrubbery I suddenly came upon a man's head in a transparent plastic bag on the ground two feet to my right. The head had a prominent nose, dark brown hair of medium length, and eyes closed very tight. A middle aged businessman I would guess.

A feeling of intense fear came upon me. Is there a grim woodsman advancing on me? Will someone cut off my head to eliminate me as a witness? Will I be seen and blamed for this murder?

I looked in every direction. There was no one around. I skied briskly away from this frightening discovery feeling very unsafe until I was well out onto the wide authorized trail and skiing down to the lifts for another run. I never told anybody about this until now. I also never took that trail again.

Just now had the notion they could make the trail public and call it Axeman's Run. 

 March 14, 2006

9:58 AM 

Ski New England