It was near the base of Mammoth Mountain, California, that Noah Jacobson started skiing from a young age. The mountain air, feeling of freedom, and sense of community hooked him: "One of my favorite sayings is 'with contrast comes clarity,' and I just love the contrast of the seasons and the snow on the mountains." Skiing is his passion.
Every season, Noah routinely roamed the hills with family and friends. Eventually graduating from bunny slopes to the backcountry, he was bombing runs in no time and becoming more confident every time down the mountain. Despite always looking for more challenging and intense runs, he hadn't had a single broken bone or suffered a significant accident in all his years of skiing.
Until one day in February of 2020 changed his life.
That day, on Snowbird in Utah, Noah, his brother, and a couple of friends had enjoyed some fantastic runs. As they ripped down the hill on some fresh powder, they decided to challenge themselves by taking a run that was not on the official route map. The route locals call Christmas Tree Shoot is steep and narrow, with tricky turns and branches that stick out along the way.
Noah took off first, with his friend and brother close behind. Careening down the slope, Noah was carving fresh tracks on every turn. Keeping his head up and avoiding rocks, trees, and moguls, he suddenly clipped his ski on a branch. He was sent flying down the hill.
He only came to a stop when he slammed head first into a tree.
His brother was immediately by his side, hoping for the best. Noah initially felt okay. He was able to untangle himself from the branches and eventually pull himself out of the tree and slide down the hill under his own power. With adrenaline coursing through his body, Noah felt confident he had dodged serious injury. - "I said probably just a hot tub and massage, and I'll be fine."
His brother pointed out the massive dent in his helmet, which almost certainly saved his life. When he tried to go out on another run, he realized he had seriously damaged his body.
"I didn't know the extent of my injuries, but I was in pain at that point; the adrenaline was starting to wear off… I just took my skis off and walked into the locker room; at that point, I think I laid down. I couldn't get back up."
Noah's brother brought him to the hospital near Snowbird for x-rays. They confirmed the worst. He had broken bones in his neck and was lucky to be alive.
"That initial impact broke five of my vertebrae C6 & 7 and T5, 6 & 7."
He was sent to Salt Lake Trauma Hospital, where the staff prepared him for surgery. Noah underwent a C6C7 Fusion, which fuses the cervical spine and puts metal in the neck.
What followed was months of rehab and hard work to even get back on his feet.
"Weeks of no real movement at all. Even sleeping, coughing, sneezing… all that stuff becomes more challenging."
Being injured during a pandemic didn't make things any easier. Noah was forced to miss checkups at the hospital or turn to online zoom meetings, including a checkup where he removed stitches from his own neck.
Throughout it all, Noah used the positivity of his loved ones to fuel himself and stay motivated. He tried everything he could to heal from his injury, including massage, physical therapy, and acupuncture.
"I was essentially throwing the kitchen sink at this injury and trying to do everything that I could. I turned over every single leaf. One of my arrows in the quiver was Momentous Collagen. I watched a lot of videos about how you guys put vitamin C in it to help with absorption."
Momentous Collagen includes Vitamin C to increase bioavailability. It is also sourced from grass-fed cows, and leverages FORTIGEL® - a patented collagen source with clinical research supporting joint and tendon health.
Little by little, Noah was making progress: "A lot of patience and very slow rehab and recovery. Every day I could do something more. Whether it was just like standing air squats, calf raises, or just raising my arms up."
Every year 400,000 people in the US have spinal fusion surgery. Now, Noah wants to act as an inspiration for people going through this daunting procedure.
Noah is working with High Fives, an organization that focuses on preventing life-changing injuries in adventure sports and provides resources and hope if they do happen.
"High Fives are started by a guy I met through this process named Roy Tuscany, who's a gift to the world. He crashed at Mammoth, my old stomping grounds, and then in 2009, started High Fives. He wanted to help people who have had traumatic spine injuries and act as the safety net to the adventurer enthusiasts, lifestyle, outdoor lifestyle folks that come into some kind of trouble and aren't as lucky as me and may have some more debilitating issues."
One year later, Noah and his brother returned to Christmas Tree Shoot. This time to hammer his dented helmet into the tree to commemorate his full recovery.
"For me, it was closure. I think life happens for us, not to us. Hopefully, others can get inspired by that as well."
If you'd like to support the High Fives Foundation, visit highfivesfoundation.org to learn more and donate.