By Jeff Daniels EBS Medical Columnist
Twenty-four years ago on Thanksgiving, the opening day of my first season treating injured skiers at Big Sky Resort, I became my first accident. Coming down too fast through chunks of ice on Ambush, literally a couple of hundred yards from our first clinic under Gondola One, I tumbled and broke my right wrist. That was a rude awakening, to say the least!
Now, entering our 24th ski season running the Medical Clinic of Big Sky, I still won’t go out and ski on Thanksgiving Day. I feel it’s jinxed! I’m sure that some, if not most of you, have idiosyncrasies, like saying a prayer or carrying a “lucky charm” when it comes to activities that might lead to physical harm.
I haven’t been injured skiing since that opening day in 1994. One reason is that I don’t get to ski too often. Another might be that I have worn my “lucky ski outfit,” made by Andy Teller of OutaWare fame, since I returned to skiing (in a cast) after that accident. Maybe that has protected me!
We are looking at a better start to the early part of the ski season than in the last couple of years, and that might lead to larger crowds and more accidents in early December. There will still be rocky conditions, which can lead to cuts and bruises. The lack of deep powder can lead to more forceful impact when a fall occurs, which can lead to more wrist and shoulder injuries.
But there’s a balance; the deeper, softer snow that usually comes around near Christmas might prevent a hard fall from causing a fracture, but deep powder days lead to more knee injuries. And as snow accumulations lead to the opening of more challenging terrain, skiers and snowboarders are able to take greater risks, which unfortunately can increase the number of injuries we see in the clinic.
This year, as has been the case for the past 18 ski seasons, medical students and young doctors will join me in the experience of taking care of these injuries. The program began in December 1998, and that season there were 12 senior medical students. Now, I can brag that this has become a widely known and sought after experience, with applications coming in not only from American medical schools and residency programs, but from England, Ireland, Canada, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. This year we’ll take in more than 50 students and residents.
I take it upon myself to be both the sole administration and admissions committee, so I have the task of sorting through well over 100 applications for a limited number of positions for medical students. I’m already making up the schedule for the 2018-2019 winter season.
Many of you have met one or more of the students and residents that have rotated through Big Sky. Usually, it’s a positive experience for everybody.
As we have over the past few years, the Medical Clinic will be open in both the Mountain Village and the Town Center throughout the winter. The Mountain Clinic, next to the ski patrol first aid area, is open seven days a week, every day of the winter, starting at 9 a.m. and closing after we finish treating the last injury of the day. The Town Center office will be open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Have a safe winter. And get a flu shot!
Dr. Jeff Daniels was the recipient of the 2015 Chamber of Commerce Chet Huntley Lifetime Achievement Award and has been practicing medicine in Big Sky since 1994, when he and his family moved here from New York City. A unique program he implements has attracted more than 800 medical students and young doctors to train with the Medical Clinic of Big Sky.