To anyone with the slightest inkling of what he has gone through in the past six months, the sight of Stevie Sidener walking the floor of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market was stunning. Those not in the know wondered: "What's the big deal? He looks the same as always."
A principal partner of Alpin Sales (a repping agency in the Rockies for Marmot, K2 Telemark, Garmont, Bridgedale and Jetboil), Sidener has been in the outdoor industry for more than three decades. A fixture of every SIA and Outdoor Retailer trade show since the days of the "Polyester Parties," industry veterans will recognize Sidener even if they don't know him.
On July 5, 2004, Sidener fell 30 feet to the ground when a ladder collapsed while he was hanging window shutters on his house. A mid-air maneuver saved his life but he shattered both wrists, dislocated both shoulders and received a severely depressed skull fracture on the right forehead.
It was touch and go for the first few days, with a strong possibility that he wouldn't make it. Doctors credit his high level of fitness from years of cycling and skiing with helping him pull through.
Just when things were looking up, a serious infection set in that nearly killed him. The situation was so critical that a decision had to be made to re-open the skull and remove some infected brain tissue, which had unknown and potentially devastating consequences -- without the operation, though, death was a certainty.
Remarkably, Sidener pulled through with nearly all of his mental functions, and his sense of humor, intact. For the next five months, he lacked a large portion of skull and was in physical therapy while his wrists recovered.
Although insurance covered the medical bills, there were still significant expenses for out-of-hospital care. (Lesson to all: get disability insurance!) Spearheaded by Steve Crisafulli, the outdoor industry stepped up to the plate in a big way to make hefty contributions to a fund.
Things were looking well in December but there was still the matter of the missing skull section. Never one to do things the easy way, Sidener again took his friends on a rollercoaster of worry when his body struggled to accept the prosthetic skull -- his ninth major operation. Just weeks before Winter Market, he was back in the hospital for an extended stay.
So it was pretty amazing that Sidener was even at the show, let alone seeing appointments. He was so excited to get back in the swing of things that he spent two days studying the workbooks. If he looked tired when you saw him, blame that on the 4 a.m. alpine start since doctors only cleared Sidener for a one-day visit.
As he made his way around the show, with the help of wife Sandy, seeing friends and sitting in on appointments with partner Mark Vaughn, Sidener, who grew up in Montana, often joked about his ordeal with, "Yep, Norwegians are resilient."
There's still a long way to go on the road to recovery, but Sidener is already back in the office, and he'll be at the Copper Mountain demo adjusting bindings. Of course, he said he's already chomping at the bit to go snowshoeing and track skiing. And he'll be at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market back in the full swing of things with the Alpin Sales team.