The Dark Side


Photo: Sami Tuoriniemi

Nightmares can happen in an instant. You can have an accident, get injured or sick, and all of a sudden life is different. From one moment to the next you are not able to do what you love most anymore – shred. The fear that it might happen again or just a feeling of weakness and vulnerability can plague your mind. We asked three pros about their worst nightmares in snowboarding; some stories will cause goose bumps, others will make you cringe but all have one thing in common: with a strong mind and hard work, they all came through the dark side and back into the light.

Double trouble

Silvia Mittermüller, 25
Sponsors: Oakley, Rome, Vans, Elm, Eesa, Planet Sports, Purl

It is one thing to tear your ACL once. But to do the same one twice in one year, right at the moment when you think you’re 100% again after your first surgery… that’s a completely different story.

Up to now I think that was one of the hardest moments of my life, to be told my ACL is fucked again after 6 months of working out like an maniac, and especially at a time where I felt I had come back completely from the injury.

My first ACL tear happened in July 07, I had surgery right afterwards (some weird hippie surgery called “healing response”), spent my summer in a straight leg brace and slowly re-started snowboarding after 4 months of very intense workout time. I was only jibbing at first, then started jumping and felt 100% good on my feet after 5 months. In that time I went to the European Open and even ended up 3rd in slopestyle, I felt strong and was sure to have made a successful comeback after my injury.

The next week at X Games I went a little too far on the big gap jump and landed a bit sideways. Even though I heard a loud sound and felt some pain in my knee, I was sure it wasn’t too bad. The next day I actually competed in the contest and then went to the hospital as my knee felt weird. The diagnosis was that there was no more ACL at all. When the doctor told me that, I was just staring at him for 30 seconds, waiting for him to tell me it was all a joke. But it wasn’t. I just had gone through all that shit, and I had to do it again. Another huge surgery, another half year of working out like crazy and another long, long break from snowboarding.

Now it’s August. I just recently started snowboarding again, easily, just jibbing. One of the things I am the saddest about is that I had no chance to film anything for the Rome video. I was really looking forward to being a part of it. Anyways, hopefully now I am at least done with knee injuries for the rest of my life!
Photo: Matt Georges

Struck down

Elias Elhardt, 20
Sponsors: Rossignol, Vans outerwear and boots, 5ive skateshop

When I turned 16, a dream came true. I took a one year-break from school and could go snowboarding as often as I wanted to. I was just a grom but already travelling to places like China, France and Sweden. After I won the Billabong World Junior Pro, I was on the road even more, maybe a bit too much for my age.

At 17, just after returning from the Arctic Challenge in Norway, I got a bad case of pneumonia. For some reason my recovery was very slow and even when I’d got over it every time I did some exercise I still felt weak and dizzy. I went from one doctor to another and everybody thought they knew exactly know what was causing my constant faintness, but the problem was that everybody had a different opinion. One doctor said that I had Lyme disease, cause by a tick bite. Another was convinced I was suffering from a chronic enteritis, called Morbus Crohn. And all of them recommend pretty heavy surgeries. But I had the feeling that none of their treatments really worked for me and my condition started to improve anyway. So I stopped asking “why” and didn’t visit the doctors anymore. Most of them made me even sicker than I was. Instead I just went snowboarding again, which helped despite still feeling dizzy and weak.

I still remember that big dump in my home resort when it had snowed one and a half meters of fresh powder and I could go riding for the first time in ages! I was riding every day! That meant a lot to me and I was falling in love with snowboarding every single day. After one-and-a-half years of being sick I was starting to feel better again and could return to school. Everything was cool – with my health, school, girlfriend and especially with snowboarding. I decided to take part in the Crans Montana Champs Open but in the final, I came a bit short on the kicker, crashed on the landing and there it was – a complicated torn ligament in my ankle. “Oh no, that can’t be true! Not again!“ was my first thought.

But after six months, I had also gone through this set back! In the mean time it was my last year in school and I went riding as much as I could. My first contest after the injury was at the Kaunertal Opening 2007, which I luckily won and the whole last season went pretty well. Now I’m 20 years old, have just passed my A-Levels and am looking into a happy future. I will go snowboarding as much as I can and now I’m really ready!

Photo: Matt Georges

Speed is your friend

Marco Concin, 23
Sponsors: Rossignol, Nixon

The Red Bull Snowpalio on February 29, 2008 was a battle between the best Italian snowboard parks. I was part of the team ‘Seiser Alm, South Tyrol’ where I spent my last season. For five days, snow cat drivers and shaper worked tirelessly on the structure – a kicker that was 30 meters long, eight meters high and had a gap of around 15 meters. It looked very similar to this year’s GAP Session jump. The speed on the in-run was about 100 km/h. Due to some speed checks, a small bump had developed at the beginning of the transition which would influence my later destiny.

After the guys from my team had tried some tricks, the weather conditions worsened but unfortunately I decided to jump regardless of the bad visibility. Just right before the transition I noticed that I didn’t have enough speed and wanted to stop, but due to the high speed and the little bump I crashed and went sliding up the whole kicker. To make matters worse, my frontside edge got stuck at the take off and I fell down eight meters, head first. I don’t know what happened after my slam but people told me that I looked terrifying with my broken nose, my face completely swollen up and both eyes black.

I was rushed to the hospital by helicopter where they also diagnosed a haematoma inside my head. The doctors said I should take a three-month break from any sports but there was a photo-shoot going on at that time and I didn’t want to miss it. So I left the hospital after three days and five days later I was back riding. Of course, I should have taken that break but it was so hard to watch all my friends going snowboarding.

It took me until the end of the season to properly get back my feeling for my board, though, and I know that it could have been worse. But I think I’ve learnt a lot from this accident – now I listen more to my inner feelings.

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