Meanwhile at Mt. Hood #5: Jeff Curry on the mend

A femur break doesn’t slow down Windell’s head ski coach

WORDS: Ethan Stone

"Bad luck wind been blowing at my back," croons Johnny Cash at the start of Jeff Curry's new edit, and right now Curry has reason to know just how the Man in Black felt.

Last month Curry, the head ski coach at Windell's Camp, was skiing through the camp's terrain park on Palmer Snowfield in search of an injured camper when he rolled over a jump knuckle to find a doghouse-sized rock waiting on the other side. He clipped the rock, snapping his femur upon impact.

"I saw myself going straight into it with my chest and made a last-second reaction to steer away," he says.

"The next thing I knew I was on my back, feeling some pain. I looked down and saw that my leg was completely in half on the side of my body."

Four weeks later, Curry's up and about on crutches, devoting his energy to recovery and hoping to be back on skis in December. Between planning the winter program for Windell's Academy and building his fledgling accessories brand Treefort Lifestyles, whose suspenders and neck wallets have been all the rage on the Snowfield this summer, he has plenty to keep him busy.

A rare talent who's maintained a relevant presence as a skier even while coaching full-time, Curry hopes to return to skiing at a high level after the injury, but says he'll probably transition more into a coaching role in coming years.

"As the years go by, I've fallen more in love with the coaching side," he says. "Being on the hill is something I love, whether it's skiing for myself or helping the next generation."

Nevertheless, Curry's unique and spicy flavor on skis has whetted many a skier's palate, and the sport's spice rack would be lacking without it. Here's to a quick recovery, and in the meantime, here's some nuggets of wisdom from the Spice man himself.

Crutch-hiking his way to health, Jeff Curry looks to a career more focused on coaching in the future. PHOTO: Ethan Stone

Crutch-hiking his way to health, Jeff Curry looks to a career more focused on coaching in the future. PHOTO: Ethan Stone

Although it's the worst injury I've ever had, it's probably the best thing for my mind to get stronger.

It's hard to let go of the idea of having a career in skiing, but coaching is something that allows you to support yourself. About a year ago I truly fell in love with coaching and the influence I can have on others.

I bring out the best in people when they're having fun. I distract my kids by making them laugh and think about something that they wouldn't normally be thinking about, getting them away from the seriousness and "what if I fall" or "what if I don't land my run." Because in the end, it doesn't matter. You'll have enough opportunities that you'll land your run eventually.

I get a good laugh from the people that take skiing too seriously, because the only reason we do this is because it's fun.

The sport is a very relaxed, chill environment and I try to bring that to the athletes that I coach. To see anyone succeed, I know that they have to be comfortable.

Our sport is much bigger than competition. Unfortunately the ones who see the paychecks are the ones who are winning. I would love to create a different way of branding yourself in the industry outside of competition, building a career that's not necessarily based on being the best person at that given time.

We started with suspender design after years of noticing kids tying shoelaces to their pants or extending their normal suspenders with duct tape.

It is possible to teach style. It's basically making someone aware of what they're doing. Style evolves over time, it's nothing that can be changed by one statement or one video review. But when you are constantly making a person aware of what they're doing with their feet, or with their hands, you can slowly evolve something that doesn't look pretty into something that looks so aesthetically pleasing that it turns into style.

Just showing people how fun skiing is can sell a lot more people on the sport than something that's so far off anyone's ability that they would never think about trying it.