Vice Principal Dr. Katy Wagner Reflects on Harrowing Ski Accident


Katy Wagner with members of the Ski Patrol team that rescued her. Photo provided by Katy Wagner.

By Lainie Pennington, Copy Editor

Vice Principal  Dr. Katy Wagner is happy to be back on the job after her serious skiing accident last spring. While skiing on Mt. Hood with her fiance Adam Ulvi, Wagner fell 50 feet down a 100-foot drop and severely dislocated her neck, but she survived thanks to the help of the Mount Hood Ski Patrol, several of whom have won awards for her rescue.

“I’m doing pretty good! I started doing physical therapy twice a week about a month after my accident and I’ve been continuing to do that. Now it’s at about once a month but now I’m back in the gym and trying to get stronger,” said Wagner. “I’m having to relearn how to do some things.”

The severity of the fracture required surgeons to fuse several vertebrae in her upper spine to stabilize the region, impacting her mobility. “I still don’t have a whole lot of range of motion. I’ll have about 50 percent [less than before] permanently,” said Wagner. However, this hasn’t stopped her from coming back to work or even skiing. “I’ll be back up there this winter,” she said. “I didn’t like having to stay on my couch for that long or to be immobilized for that long.”

In addition, Wagner is getting married at SkiBowl this summer, where the accident happened. Her fiance actually proposed on the top of the mountain the morning of the accident. Then they got separated while skiing down. It took Ski Patrol six hours to locate her, but, unknown to her, a skier had seen her, called 911, and kept her in view until he was able to point her out to a patroller.

The lead on her case, Toby Willey, rappelled her down personally and won a Green Merit Star for his efforts in “an outstanding act of heroism,” according to the National Ski Patrol website. Two others, David Macintyre and Betsy Platt received Yellow Merit Stars for “any outstanding act or service to the National Ski Patrol. Others received received letters and certificates of recommendation from the Mt. Hood Ski Patrol.

There were a total of 25 people involved in her rescue, including faculty from the Portland Public schools community. “It’s a very small world,” said Wagner. “I’m Facebook friends with a lot of them!”

“When you’re that close to death, it gives you a lot of perspective. I’m thankful for every day that I’m here at work and that I get to spend time with people that I care about and that I get to spend time with my family,” said Wagner.

The Cleveland community is very grateful to have Wagner back as well.