For those of you who missed last year’s cliff-hanger, I managed to break my left tibia skiing at Mont Tremblant just north of Montreal last year on Valentine’s Day.
I’ve been healing for a year but that year has been filled with many surprises. First is the fact that we all know—that you just do not heal the same at 42 as you do when you’re half that age or younger. It’s been a solid year and I’m still not the same. Another surprise came just a couple of months ago when it was discovered that I’d broken my ankle in the accident and it went entirely undiscovered until I complained of an odd symptom that resulted in a closer look.
All during my recovery I’ve made it clear that I intended to try skiing again. Most family and friends were about as supportive as parents letting their kids play outside in a blizzard without a coat. Plainly stated, most of them think I’m nuts for attempting it. I keep thinking that it’s a sport I love and I just am not ready to look back at skiing in my life as a historical event.
So, as this winter approached I’d started getting serious and the objections continued to mount but the unusually warm weather in the northeast trumped all of that. There just wasn’t an opportunity to ski until very recently. I finally got a plan to come to fruition and my son and I headed up to the Poconos for three days of skiing. First up was Elk Mountain. Elk is a wonderful mountain. Yes, they have only slow lifts. Yes, they have a small number of trails. Yes, they don’t have the snow-making capability of other mountains, but when conditions are right there, it’s a wonderful spot. The issues above also help to keep it a more personal experience instead of a zoo.
Getting all the gear on filled me with both great anticipation and a bit of stress. The stress wasn’t there at any point prior. Once I snapped my boots into my ski bindings it really ramped up. The entire ride up the first lift was a trial. The first exit from the lift was even jerky. Everything looked more challenging than it had a year ago, by a large factor. The first run down a trail was slow, tentative and worry-filled. Thankfully this experience lessoned with each run.
By the time the day was over I’d gone a long way towards banishing the demons, but not fully. I’d skied terrain of every type there including a couple diamond runs, all without a fall or incident. Weather then got in the way as a storm descended on the mountain leaving us wet and with visibility measured in single-digit feet. It was time to head out.
The next day we headed over to Camelback where I’ve skied countless times. This time it was 19 degrees and included wind gusts well over 60mph. It was a challenge just to be outside let alone ski out there. All the same we did so and managed to get in a good solid seven hours of skiing. Conditions improved dramatically for the last day and a friend also joined us.
My skiing over the three days improved but my own guestimate tells me I’m skiing at about 75% of the level I was at last year. Every bump or moment of concern resulted in the memories of the pain of the break flooding immediately back to me. That caused me to continually slow down. I suspect that also kept me more in control but I wonder if the tentative nature comes with its own risks.
On the plus side, my son was happy with the situation. This is the first time he’s been able to beat me down the mountain reliably and it filled him with a major dose of confidence. If that’s all that comes from this break then it’s almost worth it. It was wonderful to see him step up that way and enjoy the experience.
In the end I survived the experience so my family can relax a bit. I did have some issues. I was more tired than before. It’s clear my muscles are well off from where they were last year but that should improve over time. My ankle is now the main concern. It tended to lock up inside the boot causing some very uncomfortable moments here and there.
The funniest part of the trip was when Camelback informed us that their lift tickets are heat-sensitive so we shouldn’t put our coats in the dryer. Talk about an idiotic design decision. You’re supposed to permanently attach these tickets to your clothing which is very likely to get wet and they design it so that it’s heat-sensitive (turning black and becoming unreadable)? Nice move there.
Anyway, I’m probably done for this season. I’ve proven to myself that I can still ski and don’t need to push it. Next year I’ll be more fully healed and likely in better overall health and that should all help.