Back in the real world, if someone had an injury it was quite the talking point. How did it happen? How soon can you expect it to heal? You’ll be much more careful next time, won’t you?
In Whistler, it’s more of a talking point if you can wake up pain-free. Maybe you’re not pushing hard enough on the snowboard? Have you tried mountain biking yet? Does your medical insurance cover flights if you have to go home for surgery?
As well as being a town-sized playground, Whistler is something of a fully functioning medical ward. Everyone limps, everyone knows what it means to ‘do an ACL’ and everyone holds the same fears of taking their next injury a little too far and being out of work.
An arm in a sling is to be expected. Moon boots are common and the buses are full of people on crutches.
My flatmate is currently alternating ice packs between an ankle and a hip while taking Ibuprofen for muscle pains from a few big falls in the park.
My own injuries have been mercifully limited to a sprained ankle, a chunk of flesh missing from my finger, a pinched nerve, and a constant constellation of bruises. That said, it’s only a matter of pure luck that I don’t have two broken legs after recently falling off a large boulder onto a layer of snow that disguised a collection of jagged rocks.
Not long after I arrived in Whistler, I was biking along a trail when a woman buzzed past me on a bike. The ground was wet and slippery so I was taking it pretty slow, which is how I managed to stop in time before running her over after she crash landed. As well as grazes and bruises, she was winded and extremely disoriented. I sat with her, found some tissues in my bag for the cuts, and essentially just waited until a better adult showed up to help her.
A week ago, I was working in my room when I could hear the sounds of a man screaming. I went outside to find a young guy lying on the path that crosses behind our house. His arm was visibly broken, he was bleeding from the head and swearing like how I assume drunken sailors swear. He had hit a small rock on his skateboard and found himself at an abrupt stop on an unforgiving ground. This time, I brought a pillow, ice, and tissue paper again for the blood. We started asking him questions as we waited for the ambulance – where did he live? Could we call his flatmates? He had no answers. It was the first time I’ve seen someone with a concussion and it was a reality check to see his fear as he couldn’t remember where he lived or who he lived with. The next day, when he showed up on my doorstep with an arm in a cast and stitches in his head, I was amazed he could remember where I lived – then he asked me to show him where he fell because he had no memory of it at all.
When I told him that he’d made me rethink my intention of learning to skate this summer, his response was quick and adamant: “No way, you’ve got to try it, it hasn’t put me off at all – I’m already back on the board!”