Skiing mind games: returning after accident

3rd April 2020, by Ben Moore

Ben and family enjoying the view at Lac de Montriond en route to the Portes du Soleil

Ben and family enjoying the view at Lac de Montriond en route to the Portes du Soleil

During February half term I clicked back into my skis for the first time since ending up in hospital following a big accident on the slopes almost a year before.

In April 2019 we were all skiing as a family in Flaine. It was a gorgeous spring day – perfect blue skies, warm sunshine, softening snow and empty pistes. I was heading down the blue Serpentine, following my 15-year-old son Ollie, and making very normal, ordinary turns.

Then bang – a British boy came down from above me on the slope and totally wiped me out.

Still now I have no idea which direction it happened from. I never saw him coming. He must have been travelling at some speed because it felt like I’d been hit by a train. I was crumpled on the snow, doubled over groaning with the pain across my abdomen and left knee and wrist. I was face down in the snow and could hear Ollie shouting; “Mummy come here now.”

A lot happened quickly I think. A passing ESF instructor stopped to help and call emergency 112. Five or six Securite des Pistes first responders were with us in no time. Amazing guys; calm and clear and ultra-professional.

We were both taken down on rescue sleds to Flaine medical centre. The boy was discharged from there later and walked away. The resort doctor had concerns about internal injuries with me, after initial ultrasound checks. I was dispatched to the nearest big hospital.

Despite my frustrations, he made the right call. A CT scan shortly after being admitted to the hospital in Sallanches revealed the result of the impact – the other skier had torn my spleen, in addition to significant bruising and internal trauma (read more here).

Because there was a fear of haemorrhaging I was admitted to an ICU room. I’m thankful and grateful for the brilliant care and treatment I received. I had a constant round of scans and tests. The hospital food was great. I even had a view of Mont Blanc from my ICU room window.

Ben in ICU in Sallanches in April 2019 after a collision with another skier

Ten months on from the accident I was back in the French Alps. Physically I healed very quickly and I was excited to be back in the mountains. We were in Les Gets, partly because we know it so well so it was a good place to ski after such a significant accident.

My wife and I worked a season in Les Gets back in 1999 and when our two boys were young, it was our go-to resort for our family skiing holidays. I was glad to be back somewhere where I knew the runs inside out and could be aware where the bottlenecks and crowds would be during half-term week.

We skied a lot on Mont Chery – the standalone hidden gem of Les Gets. Mont Chery never gets busy so it’s an ideal place to regain your skiing confidence without having to worry about busy pistes and out of control skiers.

The Lievre, Marmotte and Chamois reds were the perfect re-introduction to skiing – wide and forgiving. And on the Wednesday – when it was snowing all day long – Mont Chery was largely deserted with all the pistes turned into off-piste runs. We had terrific fun playing around in boot-deep powder.

Seeking familiarity: Ben and his family returned to ski in Les Gets during February half-term

At the start of the week I felt mentally fine and I thought I would get through the week without any flashbacks to my collision. But as the week progressed my fear of another collision started to increase. I sensed my skiing change – I seemed to be more upright and checking my speed more, while regularly turning my head to check what those around me were doing or about to do.

I remember coming down the red Arbis at Chamossiere. The sun was out and so were all the holiday skiers. Parts of the run are steep and icy. I had to stop many times coming down the run because there were lots of young skiers going fast and others traversing the piste. I became really conscious that I was fearing another collision. It wasn’t a relaxing run.

But the real sense of fear came on our last day skiing. Our apartment was Sunday to Sunday, so on the changeover Saturday at the end of half term week we headed off for a Portes du Soleil day.

We didn’t fancy struggling across Morzine with the lack of snow (half term week had been unseasonably warm) so drove round to Ardent to ski from there. It was a great decision because we got to enjoy Lac de Montriond for ourselves on the way. There was a quiet, solemnness to it early in the morning as the frozen surface was draped with a floating mist.

We skied a loop starting in Les Lindarets to Plaine Dranse, Chatel, Morgins, Champoussin, Les Crosets and back to Ardent. We weren’t as familiar with the runs and I really could sense myself skiing with a slightly irrational fear of everyone else on the slopes.

Ben says his fear of another skiing accident intensified over the week

I definitely had a heightened sense of hearing. Around Plaine Dranse – where there are a few high-speed runs filtering down into one central valley – any icy scraping sounds from behind caused me to snap my head round quickly. There were a couple of near misses with other skiers – in the past I probably wouldn’t have even noticed, but this time I was very aware.

Overall it was a totally enjoyable week. The familiarity of Les Gets definitely helped, and crucially I was back on skis with my family. Before my collision I had skied for almost a quarter of a century without incident. I know my mind will play games on me, however I’m sure the freak accident will soon be a distant memory for me and my family.

Skiing dad Ben Moore is founder of family ski website, where you can read more about how an accident impacts a family skiing holiday.

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