In September 2013, I went mountain biking with my friends at Trestle Bike Park in Winter Park, CO. Trestle is built on the side of the mountain at Winter Park Resort. Riders take one of the three chairlifts to the top and enjoy some of the hundreds of gravity-fueled jumps and features on the way down. I was running late, and I arrived after my friends had already done a few runs, so I was eager to get going. Instead of doing a warm-up run like we usually do, I wanted to jump right into one of the more challenging runs on the mountain, “Rain Maker”. That was my first mistake.
The first few jumps on Rain Maker are different from the rest. They are table-top jumps and they are quite “poppy” meaning that they pop you up into the air but do not cover very much distance. I was excited about riding, but I allowed my friend, Craig, to take the lead. We stopped on the side of the trail to let some faster riders go by. When we started again, I told Craig that I now wanted to lead. That was my second mistake. I pedaled to gain speed, and hit the first jump. It popped me up in the air, and I hadn’t positioned my weight correctly for that particular lip. My weight was too far forward, and my front wheel landed before my back wheel. This awkward landing caused me to lose a bit of speed, and I thought I needed to pedal hard to clear the next table-top. Well, I got enough speed with my vigorous pedaling. I got way too much speed. My weight wasn’t in the right place, it was too far forward. The second jump popped me WAY up in the air, and I started rotating forward. I probably had enough momentum to do a front flip, something I’ve never attempted (and probably will never try outside of a foam pit). Craig saw my bike rotate over my upside-down body, and I completely missed the downhill transition of the landing, I landed in the flat part.
I must have done most of a flip because most of my weight landed on the hydration pack I was wearing. I am lucky that the water reservoir was completely full. The hose blew out of the bladder, and my spine was cushioned by the rapidly deflating reservoir which acted like a ruptured water bed. I usually ride with my left foot back, and somehow, my knee must have crossed in front of my body and it hit the ground hard enough to dislocate my left femur from my hip. I was in a lot of pain, but I only had one broken bone: My right pinky! My helmet and my neck brace saved me. The neck brace only had one small tear in the fabric, but there was a small crack in the rear of the helmet.
Luckily, Winter Park has an emergency care facility at the base. The Trestle Trail Crew was notified about my accident and four of them loaded me on a one-wheel rough terrain gurney. After a short van ride to the base of the mountain, I was in good care. After an x-ray determined that my joint was indeed dislocated but not broken, the Doctor on duty asked if I would like to be given local anesthetic or general. I elected general anesthetic even though she said that the reduction operation would “only take five minutes”. I’m glad I chose to be knocked out, because Craig said that I was really fighting that doctor who was pulling on my leg. They had to call in all of the nurses in the place to assist. There were four or five holding up my torso, and another four pulling on my leg. I wasn’t cooperating. Finally, they got the biggest nurse in the place, and he put my left leg over his shoulder, grabbing my ankle while facing away from me. He got it to pop in! Forty minutes after going under, I woke up feeling great. I was walking with a cane after spending a week on crutches, keeping all weight off my leg.
Lessons I learned from this accident:
1) Always warm up before bombing down difficult trails
2) If not sure about correct speed for a feature, follow someone who knows
3) Doing an backcountry evacuation would have been torture. I am thankful for the swift response of the Trestle Trail Crew and the medical staff at the Winter Park ER.