Altitude Sickness, Column

Gifts to myself, of safety and seeing

Merry Christmas to me! I got my new helmet and goggles!
I shed a bit of a tear when I put aside my old faithful helmet, with its dents, and well … more dents.  Up to now I have only had one helmet, my first, and I have had it for 13-14 years.  The funny thing is that, with for my entire career of doing really crazy things on skis, I never hit my head on anything with the exception of the time I crack a cervical vertebra under the old Killington double in February of 1985.
It wasn’t bad. I skied down the hill, went to ski patrol, told them what happened and that my neck hurt, and they had me strapped to a board before I could pee. I then waited an hour for an ambulance while lying next to the sink in the ski patrol room (which made having to pee infinitely worse, because everyone started obsessively washing their hands). When the ambulance finally arrived, they put me in the back and then proceeded to drive down Killington Road, which was at that point (some of you may remember this) one of the most poorly maintained roads in North America. My head was taped to the wooden backboard, my bladder was full to bursting, and every pothole we hit (seemed like they were aiming at them) felt like my spine was being hit with a sledgehammer.
I then waited at the hospital for what seemed like hours but I know (because I didn’t urinate) that it was probably less than a half hour. The X-rays were excruciating, and resulted in my leaving the hospital in a neck brace after taking a pee worthy of Austin Powers.  This was of course back when treatment for a concussion was to “walk it off.”
I do feel terrible for my mother and father, for all the times they were called to the hospital to find me dazed, stitched, broken, wobbly, bleeding, or shaken up. I can not imagine the stress.
The funny thing is though, that after I got my helmet, I hit my head on everything. I hit my head on the ground, I hit my head on branches (one maple tree branch about an inch thick hit me right between the goggles and the helmet … I giggled my way through my shift that night telling customers that the creme brulee flavor of the evening was yellow – I thought I was saying “lemon”), I hit my head on trees … everything.
For a while I thought, “Gosh, I’m sure lucky I have this helmet” but then realized after a while that I might have been hitting my head because of the helmet. Having dodged obstacles for years, suddenly not only was my sensory apparatus impaired (you just can’t feel things the same way), but also, my head was an inch or two taller and it was three to four inches wider, too. I genuinely feel that this played into my getting knocked around. The longer you ski with a helmet, the less of a problem this will be.
As for the new helmet and goggles, my choices were both from Smith Optics, the Quantum (MIPS) helmet (gray and green), and the I/O goggle (green frame with a black strap), both of which can be found at nearly every ski shop on the mountain. On the helmet, the magnetic clasp is brilliant, the venting system is great and workable with mittens, it fits well and is secure, and adjustable for the size of hat I wear.  It is comfortable, and I’m sure, far more effective at protecting my noggin than my last battered, beaten, and unappreciated brain bucket.
The only real drawback to this helmet over my last is the noise. My last helmet was glossy, and the vent holes were rounded, and so there was a great deal less wind roar. The helmet roar for this one is noticeable, and I am unsure how much of it is the shape, and how much of it is the flat finish, which will contribute to such a circumstance.
As for the goggles, I have for the last two years been using an old pair of goggles given to me by my past employer (my decade old goggles finally gave up the ghost two seasons ago), and putting on a modern set of goggles that fit well, are large enough for my face, and have polarized lenses (Smith ChromaPop Sun) was like being given eyes after being blind.
I’m not kidding when I say this: I have literally been skiing blind for more than a decade, and looking at the world through these goggles is like watching “Avatar” for the first time—miraculous. The ChromaPop Storm lenses that come complimentary with the goggles are excellent for flat light. The difference is vast. I had no idea the deficiency of my equipment was so great.
With the purchase of these two pieces of equipment, I am officially up to date: skis, bindings, boots, poles, technical pants and shell, spectacular mittens, goggles, helmet, even hat and gaiter.  The weak point of my gear now is my three-year-old Icebreaker 200 weight underlayers, which are starting to wear out. Hardly a weak point, frankly.
I had begun to complain about that, but then I realized that I had put on and taken off those underlayers about 400 times. I think that is pretty reasonable for a thin knit wool garment!  In any case, this is the best outfitted I have been since high school, and I find that enormously satisfying.
Finally, I want to update about Pip (“the Impaler”) who has had incredible progress in the last few weeks. A guest, whom I will refer to as “the guinea pig whisperer” was here for a day, took Pip out, let him run around the floor, snuggled him when he bit, and just generally made nice with him. These are all things that I have done with him in the past, but something was different with this person. Pip has, for the first time become snuggly, and far more friendly. It was a wonderful sight.

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