Two days into the U.S. Ski Team’s first training camp of the 2014/2015 season in Bend, Ore., and Sophie Caldwell was out. The 24-year-old Stratton Mountain School T2 Team and USST member had been skiing on snow with the team last Thursday morning, and later that afternoon, they headed out for a mountain-bike session.
“We throw in a few non-skiing workouts like mountain biking and cool runs, and Bend is a great place to take advantage of those other activities,” Caldwell wrote in an email.
But it was fun until it wasn’t anymore. A misstep unclipping and Caldwell went crashing to the ground, with her arm extended. She fractured her elbow and sprained ligaments in the process. “I really wish it was a cooler story,” she wrote on her blog. “But I wasn’t doing anything impressive, I just didn’t unclip in time and toppled over onto a straight arm.”
We followed up with Caldwell on Wednesday, six days after her accident. That morning was her first time back on skis. “It’s definitely feeling better,” she wrote in an email. “Think I’ll be doing a lot of no poling for the next month!”
In a follow-up email, Caldwell elaborated on the crash, as well as the news of the passing of her cousin-once-removed, Ezra Caldwell (Zach Caldwell’s younger brother).
FasterSkier: When did you arrive in Bend and start skiing? How were those first couple days of training?
Sophie Caldwell: We arrived [last] Monday [May 19] and went for our first ski on Tuesday. I was able to ski Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings and do some dryland and strength in the afternoons. The snow and weather in Bend have been great this year — much better than last year.
FS: Who were you mountain biking with when you fell, and how did the rest of the afternoon play out?
SC: I was mountain biking with the team when I fell. I think I was in a group with Grover, Ida, Sadie, Kik, and Matt. It was part of our training session. We throw in a few fun non-skiing workouts like mountain biking and cool runs and Bend is a great place to take advantage of those other activities. My arm really hurt when I first fell over, but I’ve never broken a bone before and wasn’t sure what had happened. It stopped hurting for a minute, so I was going to keep biking, but it got pretty bad when I got back on the bike, so Matt and I biked to the road and carefully biked home. We went to see our PT and he recommended I go to the ER and get an xray, so we did that. They were able to tell that it was fractured from the xray and put me in a brace and sling.
FS: Have you seen a specialist yet? What’s the prognosis?
SC: I got an MRI on Friday, but I wasn’t able to straighten my arm enough to get a great picture. I saw a specialist yesterday [Thursday] and I have a radial humerus fracture and two ligaments that are either torn or sprained and possibly a chip. I’m going to get another MRI in Park City next week that should be able to tell us more about the chip and whether or not I need surgery, but the doctors yesterday seemed to think that I probably wouldn’t need surgery based on the amount I could move it and the fact that I wasn’t in much pain, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed! I was in a brace that kept my elbow pretty immobile, but yesterday they switched me to one that allows more movement. I guess one of the most important things with an elbow injury is to start moving it as soon as the swelling and pain go down.
FS: What have you been doing in the last week since?
SC: I’ve been going for a lot of walks! [See her blog post about hiking to the 97-foot-Tumalo Falls.] I actually accidentally found myself in a spin class for senior citizens and it was one of the top ten sweatiest workouts of my life. We did stage 14 of the Tour of Italy. I was spinning by myself and then people started filing in and before I knew it, I was immersed in a spin class. It was actually great because I get really bored spinning and this made an hour go by much faster. I skated without poles the last two mornings and that felt good. It was nice to be back out with the team and back on skis.
FS: When’s the last time you were injured?
SC: My last injury was when I sprained a ligament in my foot last spring, but those are the only two serious injuries I’ve ever had and this is my first broken bone (besides a couple broken toes when I was younger).
FS: We’re sorry to hear about Ezra: how have you coped with the loss while being far from family?
SC: It’s always hard to be away from the people you love the most when you hear news like that, especially when it’s family. Luckily, our team is like a second family and the news about Ezra wasn’t totally unexpected [he passed away after a six-year battle with rectal cancer, complete with two surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy]. He outlived what the doctors predicted by far and I think everyone is trying to celebrate his life and the time he was with us. For me, I think the hardest part of being on the road so often is the fear of something happening to friends or family back home and not being able to be there. That’s a risk we take, but I think we also have to realize that the people who are most important to us wouldn’t have it any other way. You can’t live your life waiting for something bad to happen and you can always fly home if you need to. I’m looking forward to seeing Zach, Amy, Gunnar, and the rest of my family when I get home in a week.
FS: How much longer are you in Bend? What’s next for you after that?
SC: We leave Bend tomorrow [Saturday] and I’ll be in Park City for a week before returning to Vermont. I hope to get another MRI in Park City next week and continue training while having access to the US Ski Team resources that might be helpful for my recovery!
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.