Doctoral candidate Danielle Nicklas had just gotten out of her TB laboratory at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine when her dad texted.

“Mom was in a serious ski accident today,” the message read.

Nicklas, 26, immediately texted her younger sister in Laramie, not knowing how dire the injuries were.

At first it sounded like a broken leg. Then the emergency room called describing more lasting damage — a collapsed lung and a lacerated liver, broken ribs. Ultimately it took six surgeries and 10 days in the ICU to bring Rose Yee Nicklas back from the brink. The 64-year-old is now in stable condition at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, where complete sentences and putting on socks are considered daily successes.

Rose Nicklas

Rose Nicklas

Nicklas was skiing a blue run Jan. 3 at Grand Targhee Resort with her husband Mike when he says a high-speed skier hit her from behind. The Teton County Sheriffs’ Office was still investigating the collision on Tuesday.

Danielle and her sister Nicole Nicklas, 25, were at their mother’s side as soon as they could make it through the New Year’s blizzard. Because of the hospital’s COVID policies, they anxiously traded visitor shifts with their father.

A career ranger for the National Park Service, Mike retired from Grand Teton National Park in 2018 and was looking forward to his wife joining him. She had worked more than 25 years as a travel agent.

It was toward the start of that employment that the pair first met, near Aspen, Colorado, while Mike Nicklas worked as an interpreter for Rocky Mountain National Park. Together they discovered a joint love of skiing. They raised their two daughters in Teton Park’s government housing. Mike Nicklas looked forward to retirement and their joint “pursuit of happiness.”

More recently, as the couple grew older and their slope partners younger, Mike Nicklas said they had been more cautious.

“We definitely practice defensive skiing because of all the near misses that we’ve experienced at Grand Targhee,” he said. “I will actually ski 20 to 25 feet behind Rose, acting like a bodyguard.”

What happened on Jan. 3 wasn’t a near miss, “it was a violent collision,” he said. “It’s a nightmare that I’ll relive for the rest of my life.”

Nicklas is expected to remain at EIRMC for at least five weeks.

The family is celebrating the small victories of her recovery: She was able to speak full sentences again, though only in a whisper. She is eating solid food and seems to like the hospital’s peaches. She requested football on the TV.

Rose Nicklas

It took six surgeries and 10 days in the ICU to bring Rose Yee Nicklas back from the brink. The 64-year-old Driggs resident is in stable condition at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

“We all quickly learned to not have expectations,” Danielle Nicklas said. “We’re kind of just taking it day by day.”

The family is also calling for justice. They say the skier who collided with Nicklas remains a danger to other recreationists.

“We need assistance with any witness observations from that day,” her husband said.

Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr said Monday that another Driggs witness came forward, but their account didn’t significantly alter the investigation. Targhee ski patrol and HR staff have also been in continued contact with Teton deputies.

Carr said the skier who collided with Nicklas sought medical care after the incident, cooperated with the investigation, and has shown “a great amount of remorse.” Criminal charges are unlikely, the sheriff said.

The #ReslientRose fundraiser for Nicklas’ medical bills cleared $65,000 on Tuesday, just five days after its launch. Her family thanked the community and friends for their generosity and asked them to postpone visits to EIRMC in light of current COVID risk.

They believe they tested positive for COVID-19 because of exposures at the hospital’s ICU.

It’s been “heartbreaking” to be apart, the daughters said, but they know it’s the best way to protect their mom and keep her healthy.

“Each day there’s incremental improvement to Rose’s progress,” her husband said, clinging to hope.

“Sometimes there’s some setbacks. The medical staff has cautioned us that that’s the way it’s going to be: There’s going to be good days, and there are going to be not so good days. So just keep pushing forward.”

Contact Evan Robinson-Johnson at 732-5901 or ERJ@jhnewsandguide.com.

Evan Robinson-Johnson covers issues residents face on a daily basis, from smoky skies to housing insecurity. Originally from New England, he has settled in east Jackson and avoids crowds by rollerblading through the alleyways.

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