The NCAA Alpine Ski Championships had just ended and a group of Bobcat skiers traveled onward to the classic MSU spring break destination: Moab, Utah. Senior alpine skier Ryan McConnell was among this group who indulged in a well-deserved week of biking, camping and hiking, as he had just finished his career in ski racing by competing in the previous week’s races.
An enjoyable break turned into a nightmare when McConnell fell from an 85-100 foot cliff while hiking, sustaining a number of serious injuries including broken vertebrae and a head injury with brain swelling. He was air-lifted to Grand Junction, Colo. and placed in an intensive care unit until he was finally released to a rehabilitation center last week for further recovery.
In regards to the initial accident, McConnell’s friend and senior teammate Jacqui Lebel said, “Everything that could’ve gone right went right. He was surrounded by brave friends and volunteers who took immediate action. Without them, Ry’s outcome may have been a lot different.”
McConnell has put up an incredible fight in the weeks since his accident, but still has a long road of recovery ahead of him. His teammates and friends have worked tirelessly to create ways for the MSU and Bozeman community to contribute to him and his family who are working through this challenging time. As a result of his teammates’ creative minds and relentless support for their friend, they have created an event of epic proportions to drive McConnell’s recovery forward.
The Booya Ski Rodeo is a fundraising event taking place at Bridger Bowl this Saturday, April 5. For $20, the event includes a dual ski race, a barbecue, raffle prizes including a few new pairs of skis and live music from Walcrick. There are also prizes for the best rodeo attire. All of the proceeds go directly to the McConnell family to help with medical costs.
“We wanted a way to help Ry and his family out from afar by creating a fun event that would channel all of the positive vibes from the supportive community here in Bozeman,” said junior Steph Irwin, a fellow teammate and close friend of McConnell’s. Irwin, Lebel and many others have done wonders fundraising for the McConnell’s, especially in preparation for this Saturday’s festivities. They believe in the Bozeman community’s support for McConnell and the outstanding person and skier he is.
“Ryan is one of the most hardworking people I know. He is once again working his hardest to get better and return to the same old Ry-guy who many people have gotten the opportunity to meet,” senior and fellow teammate Emily Danza said. Through participation and support, the Gallatin community can make a difference for the McConnell’s on Ryan’s road to recovery.
The McConnell’s keep a blog about Ryan’s progression in recovery as well as a PayPal account where donations can be made. This can be found at booyary.blogspot.com. There is also a Facebook page for the Booya Ski Rodeo.