Bryce Newcomb, the popular Jackson Hole skier who sustained life-threatening injuries last week when a cornice he was standing on broke away, has two speeds: stop and full speed ahead. People who know him say it applies to both the way he skis, and if he wants to rip the sleeves off your T-shirt.
Genuine, humble, and always quick with a smile or well-intentioned put down, Newcomb is a mainstay in Jackson, and his accident has led to an outpouring of support. Since Friday, when friends and family launched a Go Fund Me page to help mitigate his medical expenses, more than $70,000 has been raised. Visit Newcomb's Go Fund Me page here. Though Newcomb, a 30-year-old sponsored skier who owns a painting business and received a master's in economics from the University of Reno-Nevada, has insurance, the fund will help alleviate what are expected to be exorbitant recovery bills.
"He's the classic, hard-charging Jackson skier," said friend and ski partner Griffin Post. "He's there every day, first thing, riding the tram, and always has something new and different picked out. Jackson is such an iconic resort and many of the lines have already been skied. He's the guy who's picking out those rare lines that haven't been skied. That's what he was doing the day of his accident."
Watch footage below of Newcomb skiing powder in Jackson during the 2016-17 winter:
Since Newcomb's fall on Tuesday, March 27, which occurred above a steep, rocky slope on the shoulder of Cody Peak south of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boundary, he has not regained consciousness. After being flown from the resort to the ICU of the Easter Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, doctors found that he had suffered significant brain trauma.
In an interview Monday, Newcomb's stepbrother, Ben Verge, said that the skier sustained widespread diffuse axonal injuries of the brain. This rare and serious condition is often described as lesions or sheering around the brain. "Swelling has gone down and his neurological status has improved very slightly," Verge said. "He does and has responded to pain the whole time. As of last night and today, he showed some signs of responding to touch, so that's hopeful."
Verge described Newcomb's condition as "stable critical." Swelling in the brain has gone down, and continues to improve. After being on a respirator the first few days in the hospital, Newcomb is now breathing on his own. Verge said the family remains hopeful but that there is still a long way to go.
In the accident, Newcomb fell roughly 1,000 feet, though he didn't break any bones or sustain any other major injuries. Newcomb, a sponsored athlete on Atomic's Global Team, was wearing a helmet. Verge said it appeared that there was a pretty significant mark on the back of Newcomb's helmet. As soon as the family is ready, Verge said they plan to move Newcomb to a hospital in Salt Lake City that specializes in long-term acute care.
Verge pointed out that Newcomb was not skiing at the time of his accident. Rather, he was on foot scoping his line from above when the cornice broke. The location sits among some of the most prized big mountain terrain in the United States. In order to get to that spot, you must leave the resort boundary and climb a rocky, exposed ridgeline, often using your hands as if climbing a ladder, and then traverse a wind-swept ridge above what's known as Pucker Face along the north side of Cody Peak. Though the numerous lines on Cody are not huge in vertical, they are steep, rocky, and aesthetically beautiful. This terrain has drawn passionate skiers from across the globe for decades. Newcomb was no different, and had committed himself to knowing the various routes inside and out.
He had even skied the line in question a few weeks prior and posted a photo of it on Instagram. His plan last Tuesday was to return and film it, Verge said. "He was trying to get a look at the line he wanted to ski," he said.
Friends know Newcomb as someone who is always up for a game or adventure. He helped start the Muenster Factory to poke fun at grueling workouts known as the Monster Factory. 'Shredding' involved a grater and big blocks of cheese, often conducted in midair on skis or at après parties.
"Generally he took everything to the max, especially with games, like when he decided it would be fun to rip the sleeves off everyone's shirt," said Tyler Horne, ski partner and former roommate. "There was a summer where literally if you saw Bryce, you better be ready because he was going to try and rip the sleeves off your shirt and make it into a tank top. It didn’t matter if it was a nice dress shirt, flannel, or T-shirt--all sleeves and anyone were fair game."
A fundraiser, called "Have a BRYCE Day," is scheduled for this Friday, April 6, at the Jackson Elks Lodge, where people should expect to have their sleeves ripped off in typical Newcomb fashion. Notes will be written on the sleeves and provided to Newcomb's parents in the form of a prayer flag.
Sean Kennedy, Atomic marketing manager for the Americas, said he feels lucky to have known Newcomb on and off the hill. "Bryce lives his life in such a genuine way it's hard not to love him, as humbling as it might be to try and keep up with him in the mountains (which I have given up on a long time ago)," Kennedy said. "Bryce is tough as nails and he is a true warrior through and through. We will be there with him every step of the way on his road to recovery."
For more information and to get involved, visit Newcomb's Go Fund Me page here.