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History of Face Plants

Published online: Jan 01, 2004 Column Ryan Harris
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Someone asked me the other day about the name of my column, Face Plants. He asked if there was some hidden meaning behind the words. No, I told him. It's very literal. My face has hit more handlebars, hoods and plots of earth than I can keep track of. And these aren't your run-of-the-mill face plants. Mine have style.
It started when I was a kid. My friends and I used to run around on a couple of Yamaha SnoSports. We rode them harder than I ride any full-size sled in our fleet today. We even modified them. We found that the best way to get the SnoSport to go through fresh snow better was to add a makeshift belly pan and put cleats on the track. So we took a few bolt-on track cleats and "paddled" the tracks. It worked great, until I crossed over a barbed-wire fence that was lying about an inch beneath the snow. At full-throttle, one of the track cleats snagged the fence wire and stopped the SnoSport in its tracks. I, on the other hand, continued my forward progression until the handlebars got in my way. They caught me mid-thigh and changed my trajectory from vertical to horizontal, my face leading the way. None of us thought the barely double-digit speed the SnoSports were capable of warranted the need for helmets, so there wasn't any cushion of protection when my face hit the snow. My head planted in the snow, causing my body to flip over, eventually leaving me sitting up, looking in the direction I was traveling before I hit the fence. It was then that the barbed wire released the cleat and the SnoSport sprang forward and hit me in the back.
Welcome to the world of face plants.
On down the line, this time in my teenage years, I was riding one of our old project sleds, Top Cat, with my brother and a couple of friends in the Centennial Mountains in Island Park. My brother and I were jumping downhill off a big cornice we'd come across, and on the first bounce of one particularly big leap, the tip of the left ski on my sled snapped off like a twig. I wasn't too alarmed. The sled seemed to handle fine without it. But then I realized that I was going to land again, and that stump on my left spindle might impact my impact in a negative way. It did. The nose of the sled stuck like a lawn dart and sent the sled into a monster endo. I was planted head first like a quaking aspen. As if being driven into the snow by the tail end of a 450-pound sled didn't suck enough, I went over the bars or through the windshield another six or seven times trying to ride the sled out of the mountains with one ski.
Then there was this time in the spring of '97. You know those wind rows they plow along side highways? They look like they'd be fun to jump, don't they? They are, so long as you clear the trench. I had a good series going, cleared two or three trenches right in a row, then lost my rhythm and WHAM-slammed right into the other side of one. I stopped rolling about 20 feet from the sled, with the windshield tucked under my arm.
In '96 I pulled a huge face plant right in front of Steve's camera at the new model photo shoots. Two years ago, while riding with a group of clients, I teetered off the edge of a plowed road, caught the front bumper on the road as the sled went vertical, and piled up on the hard ground like a ventriloquist dummy. I'm not even safe when standing next to a sled. Last spring at the Fairview Shootout, I was unloading my sled out of the back of the truck by myself. I got the skis to the edge of the tailgate and gave it a jerk. One ski slipped off before the other, the sled landed on its side, and I slipped and fell over it onto my face.
Now I realize that I could have come up with a better name, something less humiliating maybe. But at least it's something easy to live up to.