Monday, March 22, 2010

Road trip - skiing, part 2 or Up the Hill Backwards

We arrived at Angelfire ski area around 10:30AM after driving several hours through some very nasty road conditions. It has always been said that the worst winter weather driving leads to the best skiing conditions.

Unfortunately, my camera ran out of batteries so there will be no photos for the rest of my story. We did take a couple of pictures with my son's old digital but when I went to load them on the computer, the XD came up with an error and needs to be formatted so I think the photos are gone forever.

My son is an avid snow boarder and has all of his own equipment, including a limited edition snowboard signed by The Offspring, a rock band, that my daughter won for him a few years ago. I, on the other hand, needed to rent my gear. I went over to the ski shop and rented a package of skis, boots, and poles for $25. For another $10 I could get the cutting edge demo package but since I haven't been skiing in nine or ten years, I didn't think it was worthwhile. As it turned out, I rented "hourglass" skis, which I'd never used before anyway.
Dynastar Exclusive Active Skis / Nova Exclusive Bindings - Women's - '09/'10
They weren't these beauties but you can get the idea of the shape. My old skis were the same width all the way up and down with pointier tips. I still had them but I needed boots so I just figured that it was easier to rent the whole package. On my last ski outing, my one boot just completely exploded and broke apart when I was walking back to the car after a long day of skiing. I was sure glad it didn't happen while I was on the mountain! I guess the plastic had been weakened through the years. That is what can happen to riding helmets too so it's always a good idea to just replace them every few years.

I told the guy I was an intermediate skier and he gave me some really short skis, 140cm. I asked about it and he brought me some longer ones, 150cm. When I was skiing frequently, the rule of thumb was to have skis that go to your nose and mine were 160cm in length. Some people even go as long as head tall. Nowadays, I guess they fit them to your chin. Hmmmm, interesting.

By now, the sun was shining and it was warming up, so we grabbed our hats, gloves, and coats and ambled over to the chair lifts. If you've never walked in ski boots, it is quite an experience. You feel somewhat robot-like with the big, hard plastic and metal fastened contraptions strapped on your feet restricting all ankle flexion. My son had a much easier time with his snow board 'soft' boots.

I 'jumped' into my skis, one foot at a time and my son fastened his board onto one of his boots. Then we snow plowed and shuffled over to the line of people waiting for the chair lift.

I felt pretty good even though it has been such a long time since I'd been skiing. We scooted along and lined up with two other people, a boarder and a skier, waiting for the quad chair to come along and scoop us up. It's amazing how slowly and gently it picks you up and then whooshes off into mid air at a rapid clip. How well I remember all the trouble I used to have in my early learning-to-ski days when the chairs would come so quickly and I'd have to sit down just right or come unbalanced on those crazy slippery woods strapped to my feet, falling and making the operator stop the chair and help me out. The chair lifts have definitely improved in recent years.

I was glad to remember that I am not particularly afraid of heights as we cruised 15-40 feet in the air above the snowy terrain. We all talked and watched the skiers and boarders below us as they traveled down the hillsides. The better skiers cut expert turns around mogul mounds or raced the wind making perfect parallel lines behind them, while still others took falls. The boarders, mostly of a younger generation like my son, were often sitting back with their feet up in front of them either relaxing or recovering from a spill, or 'surfing' the snow with graceful poise. I enjoyed watching them freeriding down the mountain, performing their frontwards/backwards antics and little jumps.

As we neared the top of the mountain, I felt apprehensive. This was it; I'm going skiing! Amazingly, the chair lift slowed to a crawl and gently pushed us off. I grabbed up my poles and pointed my skis. I'm skiing!, I thought to myself. My son had to sit and strap on his board and then we were off. I kept telling myself that it would be just like riding a bicycle, you never forget how. And it is so true!

I breathed in the cold air and headed out with my son next to me, working on keeping my tips from crossing, and digging in to a 'pie wedge' snow plow form whenever I'd get going too fast. I had chosen to ski with goggles and no glasses because I couldn't wear both so I told my son to lead on. I couldn't really read the trail signs until I was right up to them but I wanted to keep on the "blue" runs. Each ski trail is marked with a road sign indicating the name of the trail and a symbol: green circle for beginners, blue square for intermediate, and black diamond for expert skiers. We skied down the mountain, savoring the deep powder, cutting and carving our way through, as a spray of snow blew off in a white, misty wave behind us. I kept asking my son what to do and how I looked but I soon realized that as a snowboarder, he didn't have a clue about skiing techniques.

By the time we made it to the mid chairlift, I was breathless from the workout, but happy to have made the run without any falls. I knew that I had a tendency to lean back too far with my legs and had often caught myself from falling by correcting my position just in time. I enjoyed the rush of air as we sped down the straightaways and I worked on making graceful, cutting edged turns to slow my speed and manipulate the lay of the mountain terrain.

We rode the lift up to the top of the back side and again chose a blue trail. Both my son and I were pretty well matched although I know he could go much faster if he wanted to. He said he enjoyed being with me and not having to stop every 200 yards like he did when he went with his beginner friends.

We again rode to the top of the mountain and this time, I told him, I wanted to try an easy black run. We started down it and too late I realized that I was in over my head. I made a few turns, easing down the steep, bumpy slope, but the deep powder and bumpy terrain was besting me. My son was about 20 yards down below me at an intersection of the trails and I had about 15 feet of "hard stuff" left when my skis squeezed together between two of the mounds and I went down, practically from a standstill. I knew it was because I had been leaning back in my boots incorrectly and let the skis get ahead of me.

I heard a "pop" in my right knee. I lay there wondering what to do. I had instantaneous pain but the hurt subsided if I didn't move. I knew I couldn't stay there so after a few minutes I struggled to my feet. It was easier than it could have been because of the steep, bumpy terrain. I was able to push up with my uphill left pole and, voila, I was standing horizontal on the mountainside. Now what, I thought. I had sharp, breath-catching, pains whenever I moved my knee. Okay, you can do this, I told myself. Somehow, I had to get down the mountain. I thought, heck, third run, and I'm out. What a bummer!

I tried to ski towards my son. Every bump and movement to my knee sent shocks of pain through me. But, if my knee was still, it didn't hurt at all. I picked my way down to him, where it was fairly level, and told him what had happened. I pulled up the leg of my ski pants and took a look. There was some swelling on the side and front of my knee. I wrapped his bandana around my knee for compression and told him I was willing to work my way down to the bottom. I told him to go on and take one of the other runs while I went down and then we could meet up and decide what to do. I didn't want to ruin his day, after all.

I managed to ski down to the mid chairlift, yelling OW! every other turn or so, as my knee was bumped or shifted and an excruciating pain shot through me. I felt like I was hooked up to a shock treatment device that was sending random shocks through me sporadically. My knee wanted to buckle out from under me but I'd switch to my other leg and the pain would subside. I did find that if I skied carefully, using my left leg as much as possible and staying in correct form, it didn't hurt!

I waited and waited for my son to show up. I didn't carry my phone along because we had previously agreed that I wouldn't need it. We would be skiing together all day and my son told me that he was "pretty good at finding other people" on the vast mountain. I worried where he was. Did he go to the very bottom expecting me to show up down there? I had told him that I would attempt to keep skiing but maybe he thought that I meant until I got there.

Hooray, I saw him! I don't know how I got there before him but I did. He must have taken some of the further trails and then wound back over.

I was in a quandary. Do I give up my day of skiing and sit in the truck all day while he snowboarded alone, or do I buck up and keep at it, gingerly picking my way down the easier trails and working on my form, knowing that it didn't hurt if I skied correctly but also knowing that it wasn't possible 100% of the time to be pain free?

Today was the final day of the season to snowboard for him. I didn't want to ruin his day.

He had last gone snowboarding with his girlfriend a few weeks ago. A beginner, she gave up after a couple of runs and I know he was disappointed that he didn't get to board any longer on that day but he had gallantly made the best of it for her sake. I knew he could go it alone if I didn't continue.

I knew what I wanted. I just hoped it could happen without further mishap. I told him that I wanted to go up again. So we did.

We managed to ski another run after that and then we decided to have a lunch break. We went to the bottom of the mountain and I parked myself at the outside tables while Ross went to our truck and brought our lunch up. We ate our lunch as it snowed lightly down upon us. Because the clouds had moved in and it was colder now, we added another layer to our clothes: a sweater for me and a fleece for Ross. I went to the ladies room and wrapped my long flannel scarf around my knee twice, binding it tightly. I almost passed out in the stall when I had to twist my body around to shut the door. The swelling on my knee seemed to have subsided from the bandana wrap and I was hoping that more wrapping would be even better.

We continued to ski throughout the afternoon all the way to the last mid chair lift ride at 3:30. Then we skied all the way down the mountain and, seeing that the big chair was getting ready to close because it was 4:00, we went ahead and rode up one final time. I was having less and less pain jolts and actually enjoying myself again. Those two ibuprofen at lunch must have kicked in too. I continued to carefully pick my way but I believe my form was improving. It certainly helped that we stuck to the easier trails. I managed to keep up with Ross and even had to wait on him as he had fun goofing around and taking little jumps along the way.

I did fall a few more times, once from a standstill, and the other times, just because?? My knee popped two more times but the pain didn't increase, thankfully. Actually, the last time I fell I could not get up. It was level ground and without the use of both legs I just didn't have the leverage to right myself. A passing skier gave me an arm to pull myself up with, thankfully, as my son was again down the hill from me. It is very difficult to go up hill. Usually, boarders have to take off their boards and walk and skiers herringbone up the hill sideways.

After we got to the bottom of the hill again, we took off our skis and snowboard and walked to the truck. Ross carried my skis along with his board so that I could pick my way carefully along the snowy, muddy trail through the parking lot and Ross, thankfully, carried my ski equipment back to the shop.

We drove over to my Mom's house, a short 14 miles away through a beautiful canyon, seeing a half dozen wild turkeys along the way. I took a hot shower and inspected my knee. The swelling on the inside and bottom seemed manageable and I smiled, satisfied that my prolonged day of skiing didn't seem to cause any added ill effects. Now to take it easy and get well. We had an enjoyable visit and dinner with my mom and then we decided to head on home.

After sitting for several hours in the truck, I found it hard to walk into the house without limping.

It was very difficult climbing into my tall bed last night and this morning was sheer agony! When I try to use my leg as usual, I almost fall over. I feel out of balance too, like my equilibrium is off. The swelling is minimal but the pain is extreme whenever I try to use it. Yet, it's nonexistent when I don't. I did some research on the internet and I think I must have sprained my knee or slightly torn some ligaments, because of the popping sounds. I think of my neighbor Lisa and her ACL surgery and worry that I might have to go through that. But she seemed to be in pain continuously so I don't think it's the same. Hopefully, my knee will heal quickly and completely, however, I believe that once an injury like this occurs, the joint is forever weakened with a high possibility of re-occurrence.

My son went out and bought a knee brace for me today and that helps, but I am still limping. My upper legs are also somewhat sore just from the day of skiing. Was it worth it? Hell, yeah! I'm just worried now about being able to do physical things in the future without re-hurting it...

Up the Hill Backwards - song: Up the Hill Backwards, artist: David Bowie, album: Scary Monsters


fernvalley01 said...

Boy oh boy! you girls and your knees! Something in the water? Glad you had fun ,hope the knee mends quickly (I can't really chastise you I too have a bum knee that I wrecked years ago ,when I was 18 ,not entirley sober in Rome and climbing over a wall in the middle of the night to get to a pool.. guess I deserved it!)

Dan and Betty Cooksey said...

Oh, man. You and Lisa and your knees. Actually, if I were younger I would try to ski, but not at my age.

I hope things heal quickly.


lytha said...

i'm impressed that you were able to remember skiing so well, and even do intermediate and advanced runs! i am terrified of the easy runs, to the point where i just cannot bring myself to try anymore.

in case you didn't know, i wanted to mention that ross in german translates to horse, specifically, "steed": )


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

You're hardcore, Val. After that first pop, I'd have just spent the rest of the day at the restaurant sipping hot cocoa while my son snowboarded.

Of course, if you remember, my knee wasn't really that painful until the next morning. I was still able to hobble back to the barn, feed all the animals, refill water, go down the hill, feed the chickens gather eggs, even walk up the stairs to my bedroom.
It wasn't until the inflammation took hold that the pain became unbearable.
For me, if I laid down without moving my knee there was barely any pain, but it was impossibly painful to put any weight on that knee at all. Excruciating!
Crutches were the only relief, so I could keep my foot from touching the ground.

I sure hope you haven't torn any ligaments, especially the ACL as they don't heal on their own. Hopefully it's just a sprain or a strain. With time and rest you'll be ok.

It sucks getting old. Kids can just go into any sport or activity with no physical preparation, while we adults need time to build up muscles and strength that have sat dormant.

The skiing sounds fun, though. I'm glad you got to go. I've never had any desire to do downhill, but I love doing cross country.
The last time I did cross country in Red River years ago, John and I skied for 4 hours! I could barely walk that night I was so sore and tight. The hot tub and hot toddies sure helped immensely. lol!

Feel better soon,

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Lytha- I knew about Ross=Horse when we were looking up baby names. I rode while pregnant with him unitl my ninth month. ;) However, he doesn't care much for horses since he fell off of a pony we were trying out once.

Rising Rainbow said...

I hope your knee heals ok. Sounds like you had a nice day with your son despite the injury.

Tammy said...

I bet you were wishing for some vet wrap right about then! Works wonders! And what a mom to take one for the team & not ruin his day. Having sons, I can relate. Its hard to keep up with them & when you find something you can do together, it is priceless!

I saw the pics you posted today. I hope its nothing more than a sprain - it is spring! You can't be down & out! Keep us posted!

Breathe said...

And you kept going?

You are hard core, girl.

Hope you get to feeling better (and glad you got to go out with a bang... er... pop!)