Nick DeVore’s Rock n’ Roll Scapula

Freeskier meets rock, wrecks, breaks scapula in half, feels pain, gratitude

By Tim Mutrie
Published: December 24, 2010

Nick DeVore once lived in a white room (tipi). But on Monday, Dec. 20, he was inhabiting a different sort of white room, hauling ass down a Steeplechase stash at Aspen Highlands. DeVore had some pretty good mojo going, too—it was another XXL powder day in Aspen—until his right ski, beneath the heel, impacted a submerged rock. He launched downhill head-first toward more covered rocks, and the resulting wreck cracked his left scapula, or shoulder blade bone, in half, and bruised his lung.

DeVore, 25, the yoga-practitioner, yurt-and-tipi dweller and well regarded tele-skier, knew immediately he was hurt. With the help of a friend, Reuben Sadowsky, he side-slipped and butt-skidded down to the Deep Temerity lift shack where ski patrollers met him and helped him off the mountain and to the hospital.

Yesterday, DeVore was resting at his mom’s house in Aspen. And from a relative “position of comfort” (read: not that comfortable), he talked us through the wreck, expressing equal parts bummer and gratitude (that it wasn’t worse).

Ouch.

Nick DeVore: “It hurts a lot. Still. I’m not doing anything for a while. … It’s just crazy, you’re skiing a pow run and then wham.”

“I skied the same run the run before and it was awesome. It’s rocky under there and tends to melt out, so nobody ever skis it. It’s got that left-hand point-break fall line going. I love it. But not so much anymore.”

“I have a huge gash on my ski. I’ve never seen anything like it, two inches wide, two inches long, and not even a core shot but the whole base is compressed in. I hit the rock and it stopped my feet and sent me superman-flying forward. As a telemarker, I’m pretty proficient at the tele roll. It’s really vivid, actually, I saw rocks coming at my face but I must’ve done a ninja roll or something because I ended up taking them to my back.”

“I couldn’t breathe, I heard bones break. Yep, I was hurt.”

“I hung out in the warmth of the hut and they brought in some patrollers. I couldn’t get in a comfortable position at all. I couldn’t really breathe. Getting me onto the backboard was quite a challenge. I was like, I don’t think you understand, I can’t lie on my back. I was just so tense. But we sort of propped up my hips and enabled me to keep weight off my left side.”

“I don’t know, I thought the rock had broken my ribs and punctured my lungs and maybe broken my spine. One of the patrollers in the early assessment felt along my spine and it hurt like hell on a couple of vertebrae. So I was really scared that I’d broken my back and punctured my lung. My left hand was tingling. I felt like I might have severed a tendon to my arm. I just couldn’t move my arm at all. It was a weird feeling.”

“I was pretty out of it in the ambulance. They couldn’t get a good vein. They were swearing, ‘Can’t get it, shit!’ but they eventually pumped me full of morphine and all sorts of things. … At [Aspen Valley Hospital], they called all the big dogs, took me straight to the trauma room, cut all my clothes off. There was a bunch of people. They were pretty dialed. Then they ran me through the cat scan machine and eventually realized I didn’t have a broken back or neck or anything. After a few more painful bed moves, I moved to normal room, and chilled.”

“I shattered my elbow three or four years ago and broke a clavicle five or six years ago. So it’s been a couple years since I’ve been injured. … But this is the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through. I’m in a sling, propped on the couch or bed with a bunch of pillows. Once you get to that spot, moving kind of sucks. Last night I woke up in a lot of pain at 4 p.m. I wanted to get up, but couldn’t.”

“I’ve never really taken [pain meds] in the past; I’ve taken them the day of, but then stop. But now it’s day 3 and I’m still taking them. Whenever they wear off, it just gets super painful.”

“I had a few competitions coming up and I was going to do a telemark camp in early January. So, that’s all cancelled. But I have plans to go to Italy and Alaska in March and April. Hopefully I’ll still be able to do all that. … The yurt’s up and good to go, I just need to build a stand to hold the chimney up. That’s postponed too, obviously.”

“The whole thing was emotional too. Watching the patrol work on me, how much they cared for me, it was awesome to see. I felt like the best people at what they do were helping me. I was definitely thinking, what if I was way out in the backcountry? I’d be f-‘d. Still, it was the longest toboggan ride of my life.”

“I am reading this awesome book right now called ‘Born to Run.’ And it’s got me wondering how that whole barefoot thing may translate to ski boots. I’m digging the book a lot. But it’s hard to read stuff like that. It makes me want to go running or climb a mountain.”

Posted In: Backcountry, Places, Stories

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