While I was studying filmmaking in Calgary, I answered an ad in the newspaper for actors. They were looking for downhill skiers for a commercial. We use to fly down Suicide Hill as kids so I figured that man made hill, Calgary Olympic Park, would be a cakewalk.
I filled in the application and under skill, I checked expert. I sure as hell wasn’t going to put novice, whatever that means. They liked the photo I’d sent in and they called me for my shoe size and preferred ski size. I said the shortest ones you have, not knowing that you actually go faster with shorter skis.
I arrived at the shoot and was fitted in a downhill racing suit and one of them space age aero-dynamic helmets. They had a camera rigged on a guy-wire that ran from the top of the hill to the bottom, to follow the skier. I took the gondola to the top of the hill. When I got up there, I must admit my knees got weak looking down at the run. I’d already pawned all my jeans and was basically living on chicken neck broth. You could get a ten pound bag of chicken necks in Chinatown for two bucks. The hundred and fifty bucks they offered was going to come in handy when I run out of grub.
I was fourth in line at the top of the hill when the director called action. The first guy did the sign of the cross and jumped off. By the time I blinked, he was just a dot at the bottom of the hill. The second guy wasn’t so lucky. He wiped out about half way down. I lost count at sixteen tumbles. It reminded me of a cartoon the way he was flipping through the air. After seeing that, the third guy quit. I was weak from hunger and I sure as heck wasn’t going to let a little fear come between me and two double quarter pounders with cheese.
The director called action and I froze. “Action” he yelled in my ear. Then he pushed me. Well let me tell you Suicide Hill had nothing on a double black diamond run on an Olympic sanctioned ski-hill. I didn’t want to but I couldn’t help but scream. I don’t know how the hell I made it to the first corner without wiping out but I did. But instead of turning, I went straight. They had recently re-planted that part of the hill and the little saplings were just the right height to ball-slap me on the way down. I was seeing dots from the pounding on my sack. I crossed right over to the next run and was going so fast I couldn’t close my mouth because the air pressure kept it open and my cheeks were actually flapping.
I was headed straight for the parking lot. I didn’t want to die and I knew if I didn’t turn I would. I closed my eyes and leaned left. I hit the snowbank on the side of the highway so hard my skis came off. The G-force pushed the skin from my eyelids back and all I saw was a truck with a sign that said, “Hay for sale.” By then I was airborne with my arms at my sides. I knew I was dead meat. The moment I hit, my entire life flashed before my eyes. The next thing I knew, it was dark.
My legs were free from the knees down but I couldn’t move my arms, or turn my head. I was waiting for the voice of the Lord when I realized I had straw in my mouth. Then I could feel someone tugging on my legs. It was then I realized I’d hit the bail of hay and was stuck inside. They eventually had to unroll the bail to free me. I didn’t make it on the commercial but at least I got paid. It still hurts when I walk but I’m eating good this week.