When 29-year-old Natty Hagood, a ski instructor for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming, impaled his face on a branch while trying to jump between two trees, he called it a game-breaker.
“When I laugh, I have to hold the left side of my face down at this weird angle that makes me look like this crotchety old man,” he told the Idaho State Journal. “And I drool more than I used to.”
Hagood said the image of the stick stuck through his lip is still one of the most gnarly things he’s ever seen.
His 15 minutes of fame didn’t start at the impalement, however. His Internet notoriety started a week earlier when video surfaced of him breaking up a mid-mountain brawl.
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A verbal altercation at the terrain park escalated into a fight at the bottom of the mountain near the Casper lift line. Hagood saw a disorderly snowboarder punching a fellow skier, who called out for ski patrol before jumping between the two.
“Being the individual that I am, be it my sense of right or wrong, my size or my huge holistic background, I wasn’t afraid to step in put the kibosh on the violence,” said Hagood, who is originally from Spokane but has lived and worked at Jackson Hole the past three years now. “I’m the guy in the Jackson Hole jacket and pink hat saying, ‘Violence is not the answer, man.’”
On the day of his injury, he was boarding with his roommate, Pete, and a woman from out of town whom they were showing around the mountain.
“I was coming down Thunder and it was our first run of the day,” he said. “I had made the first five turns and was coming back to lift line when I saw a gap between two trees.
“With my experience, you can bash between trees and it’s not that big of a deal. But this time I guess I didn’t get away with it.”
The trees knocked him off balance, and he tumbled through the snow.
“I thought maybe my chin strap got pushed up into my face, so I tried to brush it off and that’s when I felt the stick,” he said. “So, I shook left to right and saw the stick moving in my peripherals. I reached out and grabbed it and wiggled it before realizing it was pretty far in there.”
That was when Hagood had his first aha-moment. He said, “Holy crap, I just got impaled. And then I yelled over to Pete, ‘Hey look I got a new piercing.’”
Apparently, the incident occurred so quickly that Hagood experienced zero pain from the impalement, which left an 18-inch long branch through one side of his lip and sticking out the other.
Ski patrol said that he needed to brace it before riding down.
“It was initially about a foot and half long,” Hagood said. “But I braced it against my cheek and snapped it down to about 6 inches. Ski patrol was all like, ‘You’re crazy, man.’”
Ski patrol wrapped it, stabilized it by securing the stick to his face and loaded him up into the sled before transporting him to the bottom of the mountain.
The true pain set in once he got to the hospital, but it wasn’t from the tree branch sticking out of his face.
“The most painful part of the experience was the numbing shots from the hospital,” he said. “Then they cut the top-left section of my lip near the exit-wound, trimmed the back half and pulled it through.”
After a quick rinsing, Hagood — now referred to by his students and the local community as “Lipstick” or “Sticky” — left the hospital not only with 15 stitches in his face, but also with a hospital bill close to $1,500.
To help with the funds, he started a GoFundMe page titled “Please help me pay for a new lip.” As of Tuesday morning, the page had reached its $1,500 goal.
Reduced to drinking beer from a straw, Hagood said the experience has left him with a bit of “PTS-Tree,” but the outpouring of support, including one donor giving $100 on the condition that “Lipstick” gets a new haircut, has been unreal.
He’s thankful for the kindness and generosity from ski instructors across the country and from complete strangers, but also said the feedback hasn’t all been positive.
“I don’t know where they’re from or what their ideologies are, but some people have said that’s the problem with America is that people need to suck it up and pay for their own stuff,” Hagood said. “Some people have been vocal about what I’m doing is distasteful or irresponsible and I’m not taking credit for my own actions.”
He continued, “It’s made me have some interesting thoughts, but I certainly don’t feel bad asking people in the community to pitch in $10 so that I don’t have this crippling expense.”