January 22, 2017

Today I made my first attempt to really get back into alpine skiing. Since my surgeries began in 2011, skiing has been a distant fantasy. To give you a little hint of my skiing life, I was a ski instructor when I was younger, raced slalom as a teenager (VERY amateur racer), and I’ve worked at a ski resort as a grunt that wanted free ski passes. I mixed in snowboarding occasionally, but was not a fan of the painful crashes. So, while I am not a professional skier, I loved it. I still love it. I love being out in the cold air. I love riding the lift and watching the skiers go by. I love being in the sun but still feeling the cold air on my face. I love moguls. There just really isn’t anything I did not enjoy about it.

Checking out the sit ski at Canada Olympic Park in 2017.

Until I had my knee surgery, that is. Back when the surgeon thought I may actually be useful again, I attempted a day at the slopes at his recommendation. I managed 2 runs on the green runs before the excruciating pain led be back to the lounge where I could exercise my beer muscles. Suddenly, skiing was an exercise in futility. The pain and instability in my knee took away really any of the joy I felt for the sport. The rest of the fun was taken away by coveting the blue and black diamond runs as I cruised slowly down the runs in between the ski lesson classes. I felt bad that I could not perform any longer. I felt bad that my wife was coasting around on the easy runs as she watched over me in case I hurt myself. All in all, it became a sport where the cons outweighed the pros and I had to hang up my skis.

Tonight I met some awesome people at Canada Olympic Park who teach the disabled how to ski. There were so many different skiers out there. Deaf skiers. Skiers missing limbs. Skiers who could not see. Skiers with developmental disabilities that precluded skiing without attendants. And, of course, skiers who must ski from the seated position, for whatever the reason. Tony, the head of the lesson program, was kind enough to bring a sit ski over for me to sit in. We wanted to see if I would be able to do it. And we wanted to see if I would WANT to do it. I was sitting in a wild chair with a single ski attached to the bindings. The “bucket,” as the sit ski is called, was snugged tightly over me like a child is strapped into a car seat. From my hip bones down, I was tightly strapped to the chair with snowboard straps. The poles, called “outriggers,” are short little poles with skis on the end of them. The whole set up is very cool. Needless to say, I’ve got to try this.

I got to strap in and sit for a while and push myself around to get a feel for it. At first I was trying not to have a mini heart attack, which is attributed to my terrible claustrophobia and the terrifying feeling of being strapped immobile (that’s another story for another blog post). It wasn’t terribly uncomfortable, although I am sure that after a couple of hours that everything below my waist is going to be asleep. My behind was definitely COLD when I got out of it. But, I will be able to SKI!! SKI!! Originally, Tony hoped I’d be able to ski on my good leg and use outrigger poles instead of regular poles. My wife put a stop to that nonsense, despite me telling them I likely could do it if I worked out the good leg and got some stamina back. In reality, my left knee is not far behind the right knee and the wife clearly indicated that I was not allowed to finish ruining this one just yet.

Needless to say, I will have the opportunity to have 5 lessons and some training nights at Canada Olympic Park and see if I can get this sit ski thing down pat. It is heavily subsidized by the government, so the skiing is free and the equipment is very inexpensive to rent. I am confident that if I don’t cry at the top of the hill once I realize that I’m going to be going down the hill all by myself in an expensive Ikea folding chair with a ski on it (with my face only 2 feet from the snow and no brakes), I will love to ski again. The only thing holding me back right now is the severe pain. That is still an issue that is not under control, but with the new medications doubling in dose this week, I hope that I can sit in this contraption for 2 hours a week while I whizz down the slopes in a $5,000 GT Sno Racer with a ski on it. But, of course, first things first.

Buy. A. Helmet.