2013 was perhaps the worst year of my life. February 2nd I had the unthinkable (or some may say inevitable) happen... I blew my knee while skiing. Found myself in a tight spot, got back on my skis, botched a turn, hit a bump and felt that 'POP'. Goodbye ACL and MCL. I managed to ski down, and just because it was such a nice day, slowly skied 5 more runs as I knew it would be my last fun for a while. My 2013 was consumed with ACL reconstruction surgery, neurotic googling anything and everything about surgery and rehab, 6 weeks mostly stuck at home, 2 months wearing a full length leg brace, physical therapy, rehab, rehab, rehab. Lots of depression,frustration and a messed up head, messed up about everything except keeping my focus on my goal for the year... to ski again this season. Even if I'm only cruising greenies, I planned to ski.
My new ACL is stable, and I got clearance to ski at my final doctors visit on December 18th. Not that my knee is perfect, it still has lingering issues, likely from other knee trauma and the microfracture procedure he did to fix up some damaged cartilage. Between the holiday 'busy's', and a December storm hiatus that left the slopes icy, I still had yet to hit the slopes. The 'head game' aspect of getting back to skiing would be hard enough, I wanted my first day out to be on soft snow, on a sunny day, so I had all good things in my favor. When storms last week refreshed the the snow pack I told work that the next blue sky day I'd be playing hooky for my first apres surgery ski day.
Sunday I waxed my skis in anticipation, and gathered my gear. Monday was cloudy, but Tuesday was the day!!! I drove to Brighton, reminding myself not to have high expectations and singing my song for the day:
Hi ho, hi ho
It's off to ski I go
My knee's in brace
It isn't a race
Hi ho, hi ho, hi ho, hi ho!
I parked, put on my boots, which always feel weird the first day of season, and walked to the slopes. I find my bad knee doesn't really like walking in ski boots. That's slightly disheartening. I decide to make a pit stop and as I walk into the building I realize that my heart is pounding. The nerves have clearly hit. Deep breaths, stay calm, I tell myself. Back out on the snow I hike up the hill to the spot where I can easily ski to the Crest lift. I lay down skis and step my right boot into the bindings. Click. That "click" feels incredibly, amazingly good. It just feels 'right'. Click again with my left and I am ready to go. The short glide down to the lift goes fine and then I am on the chair, heading up the hill. I hear squirrels chattering and the the boom of a few avalanche charges. Sweet noises to my ears. The cold feels good on my face and sparkle of the snow makes me smile. I am a little anxious as I approach the top but getting off the lift goes fine. Making some wide slow turns I take the easy way down. My knee seems stable and painful part isn't giving me much trouble. Four more easy runs and I head to Snake Creek.
On Pioneer I find orange and black striped bamboo poles marking the bad spots that always surface during poor snow years... I have to pick my way around them nervous knee and all. I take a couple of runs anyway, figuring my mind game needs to work on tight places, then I decide to head to Great Western.
Turns out the cruising is great on Western. Even the death cat section is pretty nice. I finally get in my groove with zippy short turns and, well, speed! Things are feeling good, then, on my 12th run of the day...in the last stretch towards the lift... (was I getting cocky?) I catch an edge...and I bobble... and tumble, and the ski on my bad knee leg pops off, and I find myself pirouetting on my back down the slope, all the time thinking (praying?) "Don't wreck the knee" and holding my bad leg up above the snow. Then I stopped. I laid on my back and looked at the blue ski, and thought - "Shit. Did I just wreck my knee?" Then then I looked at my ski 50 feet up the hill and thought, "It doesn't hurt, but, shit, did I just wreck my knee?" I took a deep breath, then I stood up, side stepped up the hill, and put on my ski and skied to the lift. I felt a little wobbly, and nervous, and, at the same time both glad and grateful... glad my binding released, glad my knee seemed OK, glad I got that first ski wreck out of the way. Grateful to be out there, living life the way I like to. I skied a few more runs, though I reined it in a little, figured I should stop before I was too tired and the light got flat. I don't think moguls or crud will be in my near future and I may have to heed my doctors advice to take it easy, but even so, all felt right in the world.
I am back!