On March 24, 2012, Sally Francklyn fell in the Once Is Enough chute south of Jackson Hole Resort, tumbled several hundred feet and shattered her helmet, fracturing her skull underneath. Jackson Hole Ski Patrol and Teton County Search and Rescue members flew her to the base of the mountain, and then to the hospital in Idaho Falls, Idaho, where she remained in an induced coma for 11 days.
The day she awoke from her coma, Sally was able to wiggle her fingers and toes, and squeeze the hands of visiting family members and friends. That was the beginning of a long road back. Almost 18 months after the accident, she walked onto the stage at the Paramount Theater in Denver before the premiere of Sweetgrass Productions’ Valhalla, surprising the crowd there with a speech about helmet safety.
Snow is starting to fall in the high country now and we’re dusting off our boots and boards—the perfect time to chat with Sally about how her ski helmet saved her life, and how her accident changed everything.
Outdoor Research: Since your accident, you’ve been working hard on rehab and a new message for skiers and snowboarders. What’s your main focus now?
Sally: My focus is on why it’s really important to ski with a helmet on. It saved my life. What I also do is try to get back into the swing of things. I majored in English in college, and I’ve never written freelance before, but it’s a good way to make use of the skills I have anyway.
OR: What would have happened in your accident if you hadn’t been wearing a helmet?
Sally: I wouldn’t have survived my accident if I wasn’t wearing a helmet. My conditions were pretty bad in the hospital near Wyoming, so if I wasn’t wearing a helmet, I would never have gotten married, had children, or gotten my dream job.
OR: What do you think is the biggest reason skiers and snowboarders don’t wear helmets (and how do you counter that)?
Sally: I’ve been guilty of this, but the main reason skiers and snowboarders don’t wear helmets is—I think—because they don’t like the way it looks. But it doesn’t matter—for me, things would have been a whole lot different if I wasn’t wearing a helmet. So, I don’t care about the way it looks. It saved my life, so if I ever see someone not wearing a helmet, it makes me mad.
OR: Your accident obviously changed a lot of things for you. What’s one of the hard, but good, lessons you’ve learned during your recovery?
Sally: I know that I need my family more than I used to think I did. I am still at home, yes, but I would have to live somewhere different if my parents didn’t still have this home.