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Eugene Buchanan: Maddy’s misfortune

Eugene Buchanan, magazines editor
Courtesy Photo

To help fuel your stoke for the ski season is this weekly series of stories by Eugene Buchanan, first published in several ski industry magazines. If they don’t win Pulitzers, hopefully they’ll win the hearts of powder hounds.

Some wedding table conversations are better than others. Still, none of us at Table 9 were prepared for the doozy related by John “Maddy” Madigan, a not-too-backcountry-savvy friend from Seattle.

The story began simply enough, barely giving us pause from our plates. But then, our attention was grabbed and dragged along like snowflakes in an avalanche. Before long, we were sitting enthralled, ignoring the toasts and speeches around us.



It all started on President’s Day when Maddy and his friend Greg decided to take a day trip and ski from Mt. Bachelor’s Edison Snowpark to a warming hut six miles away.

“What probably started it all,” said Maddy, skewering a piece of salmon, “was a five-liter box of Mountain Chablis.”



The events that followed could likely be traced to their decision to chug from the box whenever they saw a Blue Diamond trail marker.

“It was sort of like playing Bob on the Bob Newhart Show,” he said. “Only instead of drinking when you hear ‘Bob,’ we did it when we saw trail markers.”

On a well-marked trail, it didn’t take long for the Chablis to go to their heads, which led to another innovative way to kill time — taking turns making up stories, which always ended the same way — one guy would get hurt while the other wound up in a hot tub with the girls.

Skiing, chatting and drinking with nary a care, time passed as quickly as the wine, and they soon found themselves at the open-walled hut warming themselves around a cast iron woodstove. After venturing outside to purge himself of Chablis, Maddy returned and noticed that his friend was warming his hindquarters by the stove.

“It looked warm and toasty,” said Maddy, “so I dropped my pants also and started moving my butt back and forth over the stove. But then I lost my footing and fell cheek-first on the thing.”

Since the stove was low and at an angle, Maddy had to rock back and forth to finally get off, exacerbating the situation. He then waddled outside and planted his derriere in the snow to an audible hiss. When he returned, the two laughed at his misfortune in a drunken stupor.

“But it hurt like hell,” he said.

Wine gone and butt burnt, reality set in, and it was time to ski back to the car. By now, however, it had started getting dark, and five inches of snow had covered the trail. With seared hindquarters and Chablis-filled legs, Maddy didn’t do so well and fell down constantly.

Then, the sun went down, and in the dark, Maddy skied into a tree, tweaking his knee. So he did what any butt-burned, tweaked-knee backcountry wino would do — he started post-holing after his friend Greg, who had his own problems. He lost the trail in the dark, and after an hour, the two decided to cut their losses and build a snow cave.

Once inside, they took their boots off, wrung the water from their socks and put their feet inside their packs and laid on top of one another to stay warm. But Lady Misfortune wasn’t done. While Greg was on top of Maddy, the snow cave collapsed.

“I was pinned inside under mounds of snow, with only my socks on,” said Maddy. “And I was already hung over and had a fried butt.”

By now, the father of the bride had begun his toast, but none of us at Table 9 paid him any mind, leaning forward for the rest of Maddy’s tale.

Greg, also in his socks, managed to slither out of the cave backward and dig Maddy out. But the snow had buried their boots, and they couldn’t find them in the dark. So they made a lean-to in a nearby treewell and laid on each other once again, clenching and unclenching their shoeless, frostbitten toes.

“We froze our asses off,” said Maddy, “even though mine was burned. And we said Hail Marys all night. We didn’t bother with fictional stories of snuggling up to girls in a hot tub anymore.”

At dawn, Greg found one of Maddy’s boots and one of his own and skied out for help, locating the trail a hundred yards away. Maddy, meanwhile, waited with his feet inside his backpack. Just as Greg arrived at the parking lot, a group of rescuers started off in snowmobiles to look for them, eventually loading Maddy and sledding him to the parking lot, where the media was eagerly waiting.

Paramedics gave them the once over for frostbite and exposure, then rushed them to the nearest hospital.

“But no one knew about my butt,” said Maddy. “They were just treating us for frostbite.”

It wasn’t until they were lying next to each other in their hospital beds that Greg leaned over and said, “Maddy, you have to tell them about your ass.”

Swallowing what was left of his pride, Maddy flagged down an assistant and told him his tale.

“I leaned over from my bed and told this intern guy, ‘Hey buddy, I didn’t tell you guys everything. Something else happened up there. I kind of burned my butt.’”

Two minutes later, the room was filled with nurses prodding and examining Maddy’s rear. When they found out how it happened, they broke down in hysterics.

“They were trying to be as professional as they could,” continued Maddy, “but they couldn’t help it.”

Maddy ended the trip with a tweaked knee, frostbit feet, a burnt butt and an ego very much in check. The tough part, he said, wasn’t that his eighth-grade students saw him on TV or that he missed two weeks of work, but that he couldn’t walk — or sit down — for 14 days.

“I had to stay off both my feet and my butt,” he said. “I had to be on my stomach arched in front of the TV or on an inner-tube so my butt wouldn’t touch anything.”

With that, Maddy leaned back in his chair and dabbed a napkin to his lips just as the father of the bride invited everyone to toast the newlyweds. Transfixed, none of us at Table 9 had any idea what we were toasting. Some wedding table conversations are just better than others.


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