Maya Barnard-Davidson has been hospitalized with traumatic brain injury following a ski accident New Year's Eve at Skibowl. Photo courtesy of Candy Barnard-Davidson

Just hours after the fatal crash of Brian Fletcher on Mount Hood on New Year’s Eve, 19-year-old expert skier Maya Barnard-Davidson suffered a serious accident on the same trail at Skibowl. She was immediately life-flighted to OHSU in Portland, where she remains hospitalized, recovering from traumatic brain injury.

Maya Barnard-Davidson started skiing at the age of two and trained and competed extensively in freeskiing and alpine racing. She earned the Oregon Interscholastic Ski Racing Association’s Skimeister Award in 2013 for combined excellence in slalom, giant slalom, halfpipe and slopestyle, and she competed in slopestyle and halfpipe in the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association’s national championships in April of 2013, taking second place in her age group for halfpipe.

Here is a photo of Maya on the mountain with her boyfriend, Taylor Jackson:


Another Bad Crash on Reynolds - Without a Helmet

The Barnard-Davidsons have lived in The Dalles since 2004, and they are well known on Mount Hood. Maya’s older sister, Sage, also competed in high school skiing, and her younger brother Ian is on the Hood River snowboard team.

After graduating from The Dalles High School in 2013, Maya moved to Rhododendron to enjoy Mount Hood for the winter, teaching skiing at Timberline and hanging out on the mountain with her boyfriend Taylor Jackson, who also works at Timberline. In addition to teaching skiing at Timberline, Maya also has been working with a social service agency in Hood River and The Dalles called The Next Door, helping disadvantaged kids, and taking online courses through Columbia Gorge Community College.

The young couple was skiing together late on New Year’s Eve at Skibowl, and they had just watched the fireworks go off up at Timberline Lodge from the chair lift.  "We were having a great time that night," said Taylor Jackson. "We were just flying, just having a blast."

After watching the fireworks on the lift ride up, Maya told Taylor she wanted to race him down to the bottom, and she skated over toward Reynolds with her usual energy. But something went wrong on the way down, and Taylor is still unsure exactly what happened and how. Somehow, Maya lost control at high speed and fell hard on Reynolds Run, near the low cat track that leads to Multorpor. By the time Taylor reached her she was unconscious.

Taylor Jackson is a volunteer firefighter and Wahington State-certified EMT, and he stabilized her as ski patrol responded to the 10:57 pm emergency call. He called Maya’s mother Candy Barnard-Davidson and told her about the accident while ski patrol prepared Maya for the Life Flight Air Ambulance to OHSU.

Here is how Taylor remembers the accident, in his words:

She went over the knoll there and I lost sight of her. And then when I skied over the crest there, I could see all the way down. You can see the whole run from there, all the way to the lodge, and I couldn’t see her. And I knew that no matter what speed she was going I should have seen her. If she was just making her way down she would be closer, if she was hauling butt she would be all the way to the lodge. She would be in my sight. And that’s when I knew something wasn’t right.

I saw a snowboarder gal who was traversing the cat track, and I heard her saying, ‘Are you okay?’ And I knew that Maya was down there.

It was probably only a matter of 20 seconds. I was right to Maya. She had double-ejected, hats and goggles thrown off, and she was just unconscious. The first thing I did was check her pulse and breathing. Then I quickly gave a rapid trauma assessment.

There were about 4 or 5 people around by then, and somebody was calling 9-1-1. And at that point I was in shock and I kind of started to lose it a little bit. But ski patrol showed up so quick. As patrol was doing their assessment and getting ready to backboard her, I was helping out. I called the countdown to move her to the backboard from the snow, since I was holding c-spine. Ski patrol threw the spider stripes on and put her in the toboggan and brought her down. At the base the ski patrol came with a sled and they hooked up the sled to the toboggan and raced her up to the parking lot, and AMR [American Medical Response] started doing their work in the back of the ambulance.

I was just freaking out in the parking lot and I could hear when they said she was getting life-flighted. I saw the helicopter fly over and I drove her car to the hospital from Skibowl. I remember as soon as I got in her car and started getting ready, right at the same time as she was getting Life Flighted from the Summit Rest Area, I looked at my phone and it was exactly midnight, it was 12 o’clock straight up.

The fact that I didn’t see her crash means I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe the face on skier’s right where she fell was a sheet of ice. I took it on the left side so I don’t know. She’s a confident skier, so there’s a chance that she might have stomped the cat track and caught a good 30 feet of air. But she wasn’t that far away from the cat track where she was lying. Or maybe she crashed right before hitting the cat track. I just don’t know how the crash took place.

As soon as she got the call from Taylor, Candy Barnard-Davidson got her family together and immediately drove an hour and a half from The Dalles to Portland, where Maya was in a coma in the OHSU Intensive Care Unit. The family had to wait several hours while the medical team stabilized Maya before they could finally see her at about 3 am New Year's Day. Maya's parents Mark and Candy, her boyfriend Taylor and her close family have been with her in the hospital since.

Maya's accident took place just a few hours after another expert skier, Brian Fletcher, crashed on that same portion of Reynolds near the cat track. Fletcher was pronounced dead on the mountain that night from head and chest trauma.

Both Fletcher and Barnard-Davidson were skiing without helmets at the time of their New Year's Eve accidents — a fact that Maya's mother is having a hard time accepting.

“I was absolutely floored when I found out she wasn’t wearing a helmet,” said Candy Barnard-Davidson. "Her sister, her brother, all of us just couldn’t believe that she did not have a helmet on. I mean, we always wore helmets… She was an expert skier, and she just chose not to wear a helmet that day? It’s just tragic.”

“It baffles me that I was allowing myself and her not to wear a helmet that night,” says Taylor Jackson. “I kick myself for allowing that.”

Jackson estimates that Maya wore her helmet about 80 percent of the time while skiing.

'She can’t talk to us yet, but we are seeing progress'

After several weeks in the hospital, Maya has made progress. She is breathing without a ventilator and has been moved out of the ICU. But she still has a reduced level of consciousness from her brain trauma.

On January 6th she had surgery to remove part of her skull to accommodate the swelling of her brain. The bone is being preserved, and the plan is to replace the bone once the swelling reduces.

“It’s going to be a very long road for Maya,” said her mom Candy. “She’s making a little more movement each day. She can’t talk to us yet, but we are seeing progress... Her brain has to rebuild all these new connections. She’s going to have to relearn a lot of things.”

The Barnard-Davidson family has been staying in Portland in lodging provided by the Ronald McDonald House, taking turns spending time with Maya at OHSU. Candy Barnard-Davidson has been posting regularly on Facebook about Maya’s rehabilitation, and she has received huge support from friends, family and their church in response.

Her update from January 6 read:

Maya is resting comfortably tonight. She went into surgery today to remove a section of her skull in order to allow for brain swelling. The surgery went well and she is recovering now. Her ICP (intracranial pressure) is finally down to a safe level. Her collapsed lung is healing well and she is breathing with the help of the ventilator. Her heart has been having arrhythmias and we will meet with the cardiologists tomorrow to discuss the results of the Echo-cardiogram and possible courses of treatments for this. She is a fighter and she has a long road ahead of her. Thank you so much to everybody for the support and love you've shown. It has literally brought our entire family to tears to experience such kindness and compassion from everybody the last few days.

Her most recent post from January 14 read:

Today was another big day for Maya. She opened her eyes wide and looked at her Aunt Kathy, her Nana Ann and her boyfriend Taylor. Her eyes seem a little more focused even though she is not tracking objects yet..

Speech Therapy came to work with her to help her learn to swallow. It was successful. Maya continues to manipulate the ball and seems to like the feel of different fabrics we put in her hands. She has discovered the side rails to the bed and likes to rub them. She is exploring her surroundings which is a huge step.

Maya is making more of her familiar faces and tonight she made the slightest smile and squeezed my hand when I read a message from the mother of a little boy she worked with. This little boy’s mother said “I know it may sound silly but can you tell her that my son is praying for her to come back and play Mouse Trap with him again. He loves her and so do my daughter and I.”

Days like these remind us to be joyful for the little things and give us even more hope for Maya’s recovery. I go to sleep tonight with the knowledge that God is working miracles within my daughter and we are so thankful for all of your support and prayers.

All of Candy Barnard Davidson's posts have brought large outpourings of support from the many people who are hoping and praying for Maya's recovery. One friend has established a page to raise money for the family's medical expenses.

“I don’t think my daughter realizes how loved she is," said Candy Barnard-Davidson. "I think she will be amazed when she comes out of this and sees all support and prayers and love that everybody has for her.”

To read our follow-up story about Maya's recovery, published Jan. 29, 2015, click here.