It is with a heavy heart and tear-fogged goggles that I recount this weekend’s tragic circumstances.
At a local ski-swap event last Saturday evening, professional cross-country skier and Italian national treasure, Horatio Pellegrino II, was gravely injured in what witnesses described as a “freak accident,” recounted by one bearded bystander as a “vulgar spectacle of human depravity.”
This annual event, known as ‘Soggy Sam’s Saline Ski-Scramble’, is a typically peaceful one, having served witness to only two fatalities since its grand debut in 2003. This year, however, was different. While the 25 x 25 ft. REI backroom had adequately facilitated visitors of years past, the newly introduced prospect of free ballcaps brought new participants in droves, pushing the venue to its limit.
Included in this tremendous turnout was Pellegrino, six-time Marcialonga race winner and the first and only person to summit the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc on skis, in a single day. According to his agent, Pellegrino had traveled to Salt Lake City after reading a mysterious online article alluding to the “Turkey King” of Gobbler’s Knob, seeking to catch a first-hand glimpse of the fowl monarch and challenge him to a race through the woods.
In an exclusive interview with the athlete after the tragic event, he shared with great difficulty that “I always, always, no matter where I wander, attend every available ski swap. With an open heart and mind, I look for a vintage pair of Asnes Turski Nordic skis, used by my father and his father before him.” This nostalgic quest is what brought Pellegrino to Soggy Sam’s that fateful night.
From the confused and inconsistent reports, it seems that the coordinators began distributing ballcaps around 10:30 pm, marking the beginning of the abrupt spiral into chaos. One anonymous participant stated “When I saw those hats, I just ran. They had mountains on them. I am a mountain guy, everyone must know that I am a mountain guy. I suppose I just…blacked out.” In a violent, collective mass, the ski-swap patrons rushed the distribution table, startling an unsuspecting Pellegrino to the ground.
“I was comparing the spiritual energy of two powerful sets of skis, and I heard the scampering — it reminded me of my encounter with Gray Wolves in the Swiss Alps,” Pellegrino recounted, his eyes watering, “and, I lost control.”
In his state-of-the-art snowsuit and boots, the bewildered athlete struggled to stay on his feet, slipping and thrashing for nearly twenty-five seconds before plummeting to the ground. In the incomprehensible commotion, Pellegrino was trampled by over 80 people, reportedly rushing either to or from the distribution table, some towards the parking lot to conceal their new hats.
Pellegrino, who refused to be transported in any kind of automobile, was frantically carried by present fans to the University Hospital, where he currently tends to his wounds.
According to the medical staff overseeing his recovery, the athlete will be incapacitated for months to come, and must sit out the approaching ski season in the hospital. Shortly after relaying this heartbreaking news, Pellegrino’s agent informed him that the Gobbler’s Knob myth was fabricated by a student writer as a gag, and that the liquor he had requested is prohibited in Utah.
When asked of his immediate plans, he expressed with great exasperation and fury that he intends to write an expository memoir about the injustices done unto him in Utah and sue Soggy Sam for damages.
Utahns, he declared, “must now face the wrath of Horatio Pellegrino II.” The implications of this vendetta are anyone’s guess; for now, we must hang our heads in shame, and pray for the athlete’s full recovery.
Photo by Chris Hammock