A TOP skier has said she is determined to return to the slopes despite breaking her back while training in Sweden.
Charlie Guest, 20, suffered fractured vertebrae after landing on a boulder while skiing in a remote area of the country.
She spent eight hours on a spinal board and endured a 155-mile (250km) journey to hospital in Ostersund following the accident.
The British number one slalom skier has been told she will not suffer any long-term damage, though she will have to take some time out to recover.
On the day of the accident she was wearing her back protector for only around the third time in giant slalom training, and she believes it saved her from worse injury.
Guest, from Perth, said: “The accident happened in quite a remote area, so after eight hours strapped down to a board and a 250km ambulance journey I was pretty terrified about how serious my injuries were.
“Whilst I’m devastated that I am going to have to take time out to recover, I realise how extremely lucky I am that my injuries are not more severe. I owe my coach Stefan the biggest thank-you of my life for his insistence that I wear my back protector.”
She added: “This was a massive reality check for me. I won’t be skiing again without wearing the correct safety gear. As someone who spends so much time dedicating myself to my sport, it is easy to forget just how dangerous skiing can be.
“It is so important to think about safety and I want to help other people avoid career-ending and even life-threatening injuries. It could so easily have been a different story for me.”
She now wants to see back protection become a compulsory safety requirement for all skiers across the disciplines.
The accident happened on November 22 while Guest was training in Funasdalen in Sweden.
Her coach, Stefan Moser, said she was lucky to have escaped worse injury.
He said: “Safety should come first, ahead of anything else, and I began to insist that Charlie wore her back protector, no excuses. I saw Charlie’s accident and I know she is very fortunate to be looking at a full recovery, even if it keeps her out of action for some time.”
The skier has now returned to Scotland, where she is under the care of the medical team at the Scottish Institute of Sport.
The institute’s medical team also cared for Charline Joiner, the Scottish cyclist who fractured her spine after coming off her bike in a collision with another bicycle on a Team Scotland training camp in Spain at the start of this year.
She recovered in time to compete in the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
The cyclist has been giving the skier moral support as they met at a cycling event in the autumn.
Writing on her blog, Guest said she is now fully focused on her recovery.
She said: “I don’t want to rule out world champs in February; I’m just going to take everything day by day and see when I’m fit to be back on snow.
“Pre-season training will not be wasted. Physically I will come back much stronger and mentally the next few months will be tough, but I am confident that I will at least be skiing and training properly by the end of the season.”