The look on his face was the same one every time Niki “goes for It.” Wide eyed, with an even wider, laughing smile, his strawberry blonde hair flying behind a warriors body poised for a physical assault. Niki’s ability to make a decision in the moment, to do it on-the- fly, is part of what has made him known as the best telemarker on the planet. That split second decision to go instead of stop, is also what has brought his ski season to an early, painful end.
Late in the afternoon last Tuesday Niki was in the flow, he said it himself. For the last run of the day, he and his friends wanted a little more air , after an amazing speed flight that morning, they decided to go for a run through the Snowmass terrain park. As he neared the end of a nice fluid run, he pointed his skis and committed to finishing it. Blue eyes sparkling, he laughed once and accelerated toward the last jump, the 80 footer with a deck that angled towards the jumper. He hit the take off with speed and confidence, but it was not enough. He missed the knoll by two feet. He crumpled like an expert in the field of falling, and those above thought he was ok below. when he didn’t ski on his friends came to him. First he said “I’m so sorry,” then he said “My ankles are broken.”
Ski patrol came quickly. Niki didn’t cry out in pain once. He was using all his energy to keep a smile on his face and keep his friends laughing. He even took the time to take his phone out for a picture so he could tweet it later, as he had been instructed earlier in the day to do constantly for the Surf Gravity project. He was already trying to find the positives and silver lining as they put him in the ambulance.
Now Niki is bed ridden with rods coming out of both shins, Both ankles are shattered. The situation is serious as doctors try to figure out how to tackle this injury once the swelling has gone down. Niki will receive all the support his friends and family can give him. He will heal, and dance again, like the super human he is. Niki has enjoyed a life lived by few, spending the last ten years as a competitive skier traveling the world and advancing his skill as well as his awareness and spirituality. Niki does amazing things everyday that inspire those around him, and he will continue to do so on a less physical plane for a while. Niki has been teaching us all how to surf gravity for years. We don’t know what form he will do it in now, but his expression will still be beautiful and have deep impact on his community and world. Many who know Niki are heartbroken to see such a peaceful warrior downed, but at Surf Gravity we are excited to see a new being rise.