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Midway down the ramp during his third jump at the 1970 World Ski Flying Championships in Yugoslavia, ski jumper Vinko Bogataj lost his balance and crashed spectacularly off the side into a surprised crowd of onlookers. As Bogataj reminisces: “When I realized I was about to crash, I thought, ‘What can I do to save myself?’ I was very angry. I lost consciousness for a minute or two. Then I wanted to stand up and walk away alone because I didn’t feel any pain except for a little in my head, where the ski stuck me. I didn’t want the public to think that I was badly hurt. I really wanted to walk alone but the doctors wouldn’t let me.” (-as told to Sarah Tuff)
See raw footage here.
PHOTO: Courtesy ABC Sports
In April 1992, at the World Extreme Skiing Championships in Valdez, then 27-year-old Garret Bartelt of Aspen, Colorado, fell 900 vertical feet down a rock-peppered slope, detonating one of his femurs. The footage would become the subject of a Discovery Channel show, Survive This!, and at least 10 other national programs. Bartelt explains, “As I was about to make the first jump turn, my ski got caught in a hole. I tumbled through tight sections and over rocks. With every rotation I was fighting to get back on my feet. But I was going too fast, and it was a 50-degree slope. I hit the final rock sideways and backwards. That’s where I broke my femur — about 600 feet down from where I fell. It broke in three places, and the force was huge. The heel of my right boot kicked me in the left temple. I ragdolled the last 200 feet. I felt the impact but I didn’t know my leg was broken until the Denali high-angle rescue team got to me. The entire fall took 37 seconds.
Check out the footage here.
PHOTO: Courtesy of John Sandy Productions
In May 1970, Japanese speed skier Yuichiro Miura attempted to ski nearly 8,000 vertical feet of Mount Everest. He made it 6,600 feet down, then fell and slid more than 1,300 feet. Miura’s slide came to a halt just 250 feet above a bergschrund. But his feat still earned him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records and a starring role in the 1975 Academy Award—winning documentary The Man Who Skied Down Everest. In 2003, at age 70, Miura returned to Everest to become the oldest man ever to reach the summit.
PHOTO: Alan Arnette
During the filming of Greg Stump’s 1989 License to Thrill, just one day after getting eight stitches in her scalp from bowling down a stone-pocked face near Squaw’s Pocket Chutes, former U.S. Ski Team member Kim Reichhelm took another hit. Reichhelm arced into a large pine tree like it was a slalom gate, twisted around, and tumbled backward over the rocks below. “She was carrying speed and taking it like a racer, only it was a four-foot tree trunk, so she bounced, says cinematographer Bruce Benedict, who filmed the sequence. “It sounded like she was shrieking, but actually she was laughing hysterically. Somehow, Reichhelm was unscathed. “I was shooting at 300 frames per second, says Benedict. “So I could really appreciate what a bad idea it was to mistake a tree for a slalom pole. Then, in a filming session the next day, Reichhelm blew out her knee.
See footage from the film here.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Greg Stump
At the 1998 World Extreme Skiing Championships in Valdez, Alaska, McGovern tumbled and took 65 stitches under his right eye. Then, while being filmed for Matchstick Productions’ 2004 Yearbook at Points North Heli Adventures in Cordova, Alaska, McGovern ripped a page right out of his own history book. “I had just had a good run with a 30-foot air into good snow, says McGovern. “So I dropped in thinking it was going to be 10 inches of powder, but it was white ice. I backslapped, then tried to stand up, but I started sliding backwards on the ice, then sideways. I tried to do a back handspring to my feet but just started flipping down the mountain because it was so steep. I tumbled and tumbled, but when I didn’t hit that rock in the center I was very relieved and relaxed. Then there was nothing I could do. I knew I wasn’t going to get that hurt. I blew out one of my left buckles and bent both skis, but they both stayed on. It should have been a Marker ad. (-as told to Sarah Tuff)
At the 2000 International Freeskiing Association Championships in Blackcomb Mountain’s Diamond Bowl, Jared Mazlish, of Breckenridge, Colorado, jumped off a 110-foot cliff and landed on rock. Mazlish explains, “I was in 25th place on the last day. I needed to do something big if I was going to win. But the snow wasn’t even three quarters of a pole deep, and I was being unrealistic. I knew I had a 10-by-10-foot landing area of soft snow, but the takeoff is a little bit blind and I wound up about 10 feet too far left. I remember seeing the black rock coming at me. I broke my back in four places. When the photographer got to me I wasn’t breathing. I looked purple and black. She swept the snow away from my head and mouth. Suddenly I came to and started breathing again. I needed a heli-evac out of there, but the terrain was pretty steep so they lowered me down on a sled first. Every bump on that sled ride killed me. I’d cracked all of my ribs, deflated my right lung, broke my right scapula, and lacerated my liver.” So where is he now? “I’m back skiing. Life’s getting jolly again. Since then I’ve started a ski company and gotten out of competing. I live vicariously through my ski team.”
PHOTO: Pierre Yves-LeBlanc
On Friday the 13th in February, 1998, photographer Carl Yarbrough secretly climbed up the men’s downhill course at the Nagano Olympics, hiding from Olympic officials, and snapped this Sports Illustrated cover shot of Hermann Maier’s legendary wreck. A moment before Maier’s run, Yarbrough moved a few feet up the hill and then saw a glint of movement. Suddenly, the brawny Austrian star was airborne, spinning like the blade of a circular saw. He cut through two layers of safety fencing and slammed through the spot Yarbrough had just vacated. “I was pumped with adrenaline — I got this really cool shot, and this guy almost killed me, says Yarbrough. “But then I looked down the hill and there was Hermann in a pile. I thought he was dead. I shouted, ‘Are you OK?’ He bobbed his head up and down. The most amazing thing? For the rest of the race, nobody ever came to tell me to move.
PHOTO: Carl Yarbrough
When X Games champ Tanner Hall fractured both ankles and heel bones in a nauseating March 2005 crash, Alta, Utah, patroller Dave Richards was first on the scene. “He started doing the flailing cat and then hit the wall, says Richards. “He was going through his best use of the English language. I was trying to test his legs and stabilize him but he kept punching me. The accident happened when Hall came up short on 120-foot Chad’s Gap, near Alta. Fellow eyewitness Gordy Peifer remembers Tanner “screaming like someone had chopped his legs off. It was horrifying. The crash is meticulously edited in the final segment of Teddybear Crisis’s 2005 film, Teddybear Crisis.
PHOTO: Brent Benson
In Greg Stump’s landmark 1988 film The Blizzard of Aahhh’s, Scot Schmidt drops into a narrow chute at Chamonix’s Grands Montets and winds up tumbling unharmed over a crevasse at the bottom. Glen Plake thinks he sees a better line. His ensuing physics lesson becomes one of the most memorable moments in ski-film history. As Plake tells us, “I only had a pair of 200s on. The little mogul skis bent into a crescent moon, squirted out from under me, and sprung me out. All of a sudden, the next roll was going to be a backwards one so I back flipped over the bergschrund right there. I put my hands up in the air as an ‘I’m all right,’ because they were filming from pretty far away. They ended up cutting it so it looked like I was all stoked. But I was kind of pissed, actually. I’ve never been a big bomb-hole maker. I wanted to land on my feet with my poles and ski away. So just my ego was crushed on that one. Went back the next snowstorm with my big skis on and stood on it.” (Ed’s note: He means he went back and nailed the line.)
PHOTO: Courtesy of Greg Stump
You’ve probably heard about the 255-foot cliff jump Jamie Pierre performed on January 25, 2006, near Wyoming’s Grand Targhee ski resort, during which he rotated backward, lawn-darting headfirst into the snow. You may have also heard that it was something of a religious endeavor for the 34-year-old native Minnesotan. In Teton Gravity Research’s 2006 film, Anomaly, Pierre said, “Everyone’s looking at me like I’m a nut job, but I want you guys to seriously think about God and Jesus Christ dying on the cross for you. What you may not know is that those in our sport who care deeply about classifying every stunt with a neat label have struggled mightily to define what, exactly, Mr. Pierre did on that crisp midwinter day. Was it a new world cliff-hucking record, or one of history’s biggest ski crashes? At issue seems to be whether planning, as Pierre did, to land on his back and shoulders disqualifies it as a crash – since a crash is inherently an accident. Tell us what you think at in the community.
PHOTO: Wade McKoy/Focus Productions