Pain and Glory: Greg Gripp

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La Clusaz, France, 1986

It's a myth that in high-speed falls, a speedskier's suit can melt to his skin. In most cases, the suit's fine. It's the skin that melts. Ask Greg Gripp, who was attempting to break the world speedskiing record when he took a spill that should've killed him. The track was fast, and the world speed record looked vulnerable when Gripp hopped into the fall line and dropped into his tuck. He was probably doing a little more than 125 mph, just above the speed trap, when a depression in the course ripped a ski from his foot. He slammed to the snow, then tumbled, unconscious, through the speed trap. Because Gripp was unable to protect himself during the long skid that followed, the friction burns were gruesome: second- and third-degree over large parts of his body. It could have been worse, but a new suit technology lessened the damage. "I got the suit back, and there were big patches of burnt skin inside it," Gripp recalls. "But the suit was fine."