Sunday, March 19, 2006

Break A Leg

Dave and Simon have been staying just outside Chamonix for a week and came across to ski with us for the day. They picked the right day for it, gorgeous sunshine and -10, although they probably did underestimate the time it would take them to get across. Sarah and I succumbed to some fast piste cruising before lunch whilst we waited for them to arrive. After skiing primarily gorgeous powder off piste lately, the fear was that pratting about in the pistes would feel like a let down, but with these conditions, it's oh so much fun. The TroubleMakers really bring out the hooligan in me. Simon is a beginner boarder, and wanted to take it easy in his own pace. Dave has skied with us for one or two weeks a year since Meribel '03, and we've seen him progress from first timer to confident intermediate. We'd decided to try to help improve his technique a bit, and picked the gentle slope of the youth Stade De Slalom, a blue, short run. I set off first, with the intention to stop a bit further down to watch. Suddenly my left ski stops completely dead, and with a nasty sound my binding releases, and I find myself careering down the slope on my front, with a searing pain in my foot. Immediately I know that this is almost certainly the end of the trip for me. Sarah picks up my left ski and joins me. I struggle to my feet. Out of the bottom of my ski there is a foot long, centimetre wide gash down the middle, all the way into the core. Putting the ski on almost makes me pass out. Sarah offers to call rescue, but I can't bear the embarressment. I limp my way down on one ski to the restaurant at the bottom of the slope and against the received wisdom remove my boot. It's just typical that it's my left which I've broken badly before. The foot is painful to touch and move, but somehow it seems infeasible to break a bone inside a ski boot - normally when people break legs skiing it's a tib-fib jobbie just above the boot. We have some lunch, and I reluctantly face up to the fact that there's just no way in hell I can make it down to the resort of my own steam. I swallow my pride, and Sarah calls for piste rescue which arrives in the shape of a Skidoo which take me to the medical centre in the resort. Many x-rays later the conclusion is that I've chipped a splinter out of the corner of my tib, and a back slab cast is put on. I hate being immobilised, but at least it's almost the end of the trip anyway, but the idea of prolonging the trip for a few weeks would appear to be out. Nevermind. Shit - as they say - happens. I haven't done too badly, having skied for 30 years and this being the first, and so far only injury I've ever sustained in the process. Having broken my left leg before, I know pretty well what to expect, and hopefully should be able to keep my spirits up a bit better this time around. I am a notoriously bad patient. The doctors here have basically done the emergency patch-up, and relying on the fine orthopedics department at Southmead Hospital in Bristol to do it properly. As I'm here for another week, they're actually putting on a new, full cast on Tuesday which hopefully should mean that this week 'counts' in terms of the number of weeks in plaster game. Two days after the break, I can vouch for that pain hurts, and the first pain killers they gave me were about as effective as pissing in the ocean to make it sweeter. They since switched me onto the curiously named Ixprim which seems to do the job, allowing both me and Sarah to at least get a few hours sleep each night.

We took out a British Mountaineering Council (BMC) annual travel insurance before we set out on this trip. It is a bit more expensive than other alternatives, but I'd recommend this to anyone that does anything more active than frying on the beach on their travels. They know the difference between the various strands of climbing and mountaineering. For example, a competing insurance provider disallow 'unroped climbing' thus in the process also cutting out bouldering. Other insurances also put a depth limit on their diving cover, or disallow off-piste skiing. Apparently, this can mean that if you even put one foot outside the poles marking a run, you are not covered. Not what you want to have to think about when you're skiing. The BMC insurance covers every aspect of climbing, mountaineering, diving and skiing (and other outdoor activities such as kayaking, mountain biking, caving etc etc), no ifs and buts. Any profit is plowed straight back into the good work that the BMC does for its members. And, most importantly, and worth the admission alone, the professionalism and in-depth knowledge on hand when you need assistance is just extraordinary. The piste rescue service kept one of my boots, my poles and my skis and would not release them until their costs were covered (€278 for a 2 min Skidoo ride). The BMC took care of it without a single question. They told me that CheesyJet is notoriously reluctant to fly people with limbs in plaster and arranged for my doctor here to give me a certificate of flying, and also phoned me up to see if I wanted an extra seat on the flight home for the leg. They will cover the repairs to my skis and refund the cost of my ski pass for the eight days of skiing I will have missed.

As a happy member and customer, I think that you're unlikely to find a better travel insurance product when push comes to shove and you really need help. I take my hat off to the BMC, and heartily recommend them to anyone into the outdoors.

1 comment:

David Hedley said...

It was great to see you and Sarah - I'm so sorry how it turned out though - get well soon!