Monday, November 30, 2015

Page 109: Ski Accident

“The Ski Accident” is the favorite of pioneering urban legend researcher Jan Harold Brunvand. Belonging to a class of stories that give listeners an intense dose of schadenfreude, it has been told as an absolutely true story since at least the winter of 1979–1980. It goes something like this:

Having exited the ski-lift at the top of a mountain, a snow-bunny’s first time downhill is temporarily pre-empted when she feels the call of nature. Unable to locate any facilities, she skis to a private location behind some trees to relieve herself. It turns out that leaving her skis on was a bad idea, for once she’s dropped her pants around her ankles and squatted, she begins to slide downhill backwards. Not only do all the other skiers witness this embarrassing incident, but her journey is interrupted by a tree, necessitating a trip to the first-aid room.

There, she encounters a ski instructor who, like her, has a broken arm. She asks him how a pro sustained such an injury. He explains that he was riding to the top of the mountain when he saw a woman with her pants around her ankles skiing backwards downhill, and when he leaned over to get a better look he fell off the ski lift. [Or, in some versions, the sight of the bare-bottomed backward skier distracts the instructor so much that he collides with a tree himself. Sometimes the other person isn’t an instructor at all, but just another spectator/skier.]

Then he looks at her and asks, “How about you?”
A panel from “The Ski Accident,” a one-page serial art version of this urban legend from Robert Loren Fleming, Jan Harold Brunvand, and Robert F. Boyd, The Big Book of Urban Legends: Adapted from the Works of Jan Harold Brunvand (New York: Paradox Press, 1994), 104. Art by the great Dan Barry (1923–1997), who began in the 1940s with Doc Savage and Blue Bolt, did daily strips for Tarzan and Flash Gordon, and most recently drew Indiana Jones and Predator comics for Dark Horse.
Like most urban legends, details such as the skier’s hometown and where the incident happened vary in the retelling, often to someplace relatively nearby. In The Billionth Monkey, the story plays out in slightly altered form: Our character, although quite embarrassed, does not require a trip to first aid. And the injured ski instructor is replaced by her date…and not here, but in the story’s replay with Bruiser on page 123. While the urban legend doesn’t seem to ever name the skier in this mishap, I added the fictional detail that she is typically identified generically as “Miss Jones.”

For Further Reading

Jan Harold Brunvand, “The Ski Accident,” in Encyclopedia of Urban Legends (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2001), 386–7.

Robert Loren Fleming, Jan Harold Brunvand, and Robert F. Boyd, The Big Book of Urban Legends: Adapted from the Works of Jan Harold Brunvand (New York: Paradox Press, 1994), 104.

Barbara Mikkelson, “Ski Bum,” December 27, 2004, Snopes.com.

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