He’d give the clothes off his back to ski
April 10, 2009
Todd Stuart contracted viral encephalitis after a moonlight ski excursion. The light that had guided him down backcountry slopes of the Wasatch Front failed him when he returned home and devoured, in the dark, the pumpkin pie his wife had left to cool on the counter.
While the couple skied, mice had crowded into the pie, ate bountifully, and left their droppings, which Stuart unknowingly gulped down. A week later, his temperature shot up to 104 degrees and he slipped into a coma.
Stuart, now a groomer at Deer Valley Resort, awoke 11 days later with a collapsed lung. "If you imagine your worst hangover, times ten, that’s how bad I felt," he explained Tuesday. "It took me a few years after that to stare down a pie."
Today, Stuart begins the story with a disclaimer. "You’ll need a sense of humor," he says. "You have one, right?"
Stuart writes about the coma, his time on the "God Squad" ski patrol at Alta, and his yurt six miles from Guardsman’s Pass in his effusively titled book, "Nobody Owes You Tomorrow: Volume One of I Have Time, a story about how truth, beauty and wilderness can heal the human soul."
Stuart will be a Dolly’s Bookstore, 510 Main St., Saturday, April 11 from 7 to 9 p.m. to sign copies of the book and answer readers’ questions. The self-published paperback, now in its second edition, departs from the sleepy approach of academic autobiographies. Many chapters begin with brief passages written from the perspective of birds, owls and mice. Stuart uses the technique to imagine the world from the perspective of the animals that surround him.
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The book covers about three years of a 15-year span and Stuart has plans for three more volumes. "Tomorrow’s" bawdy cover pictures Stuart telemark skiing down a sand dune in southern Utah. He is in the buff.
Stuart takes a philosophical approach to life, he said, and describes himself as a "skiing Thoreau." "Today, I can thank that mouse for giving me viral encephalitis," he said. "Life throws you these curve balls. Things happen to test your resolve in nature. If it were easy, everyone would do it."
A landslide destroyed his yurt on Christmas Day last year, and he spent the holiday dangling candles on the branches of a naturally flocked tree. In a blizzard.
He has spent the interceding months sleeping in a "guest hut" his friend built alongside his own.
Stuart’s days begin at 10 p.m. when he straps on skis and glides down unpacked snow, what he calls "death crust," until he reaches Deer Valley. He rumbles along in his snowcat until early morning, often skis and runs errands, until he returns to his yurt in the afternoon to sleep.
He stores enough rice, lentils, oats, brown sugar, flour and maple syrup in his 7-by-15 foot living space to last for the winter.
Life isn’t always easy, he admitted. But it is fun.
"The happiest people I ever saw were the people who didn’t have to go home after a day of skiing," he said. "I realized this was possible. I could ski all day every day and not have to go home."
Customers can purchase "No One Owes You Tomorrow" online or at Dolly’s Bookstore, 510 Main St.