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Mac Heffernan, photo by Robin Cressy

Lifelong Mount Hood skier Mac Heffernan is feeling lucky to be alive after a tough crash into the rocks on July 30, but he will have to postpone his planned military career to recuperate from his wounds.

The 19-year-old former Sunset High ski racer was ripping it fast down skier's right of the Palmer Chairlift when he got caught up in some heavy slush at 40 miles per hour, crashed, bounced, flipped and slid through a rock garden. "It was like a pinball machine, me being the pinball," he said. "My friend skiing behind me thought I was dead. He told me, 'Man I was so happy to see you moving.'"

"Luckily, I was wearing a helmet," he added.

Palmer can turn treacherous quickly when the conditions change and the snow gets sticky, especially in the rock-strewn area where Mac was skiing, away from the well-groomed lanes set up for ski racing. The crash left Heffernan with serious fractures to his right leg, including a bone sticking out through the skin. He was transported to St. Vincent's Medical Center in Portland and transferred up to the trauma center at Oregon Health & Science University with three broken bones (fibia, tibia and ankle) and a bruised kidney. He spent five days in the hospital.

I have never totaled up the number of serious injuries for a summer on Timberline, but I know of several bad crashes from recent seasons. Skiing involves risk, and the risk increases with speed, bad visibility and tricky snow conditions. There are a lot of young people shredding fast and taking chances up on that relatively small patch of summer snow, so I imagine the number could be significant. It's never any fun when it happens to you or a friend.

Since his accident Mac has been posting a steady stream of extreme skiing videos, clarifying that he has no intentions of giving up the sport he has done his whole life (His dad Mike Heffernan tied for first in this year's vertical challenge at Mt. Hood Meadows). Mac will, however, be forced to alter his post-high-school plans due to his injuries. He had originally planned to head off to train as a combat engineer with the U.S. Army later this month. His revised plan is to take a few community college courses and give his body time to recover before beginning army training in February of 2017. Among the people who visited him at the hospital were three military recruiters who assured him that he still has a slot waiting for him once he has recovered.

Mac said he appreciates the many visits and words of encouragement he has received from a steady stream of friends and family and co-workers. He hopes to recuperate fully by November. Shred Hood definitely wishes him well.