I grew up skiing, took a long break from it in my 20’s, and returned to it again when I had kids. I was so excited when they were old enough to ski, not only to teach them how to do it, but to get back out there myself. For not only is skiing fun, exhilarating and a great way to get exercise, but for me – a naturally warm-weather person – it’s a way to get through the winters (especially now, with kids). There’s only so many museums and ice rinks you can go to every weekend. Skiing opens up a whole new world: the sport in and of itself, the new mountains and cool ski towns to explore, the people you meet, that feeling of freedom skiing down the mountain, the nice cold beer at the end of a long day and tired legs. I was talking up the importance of skiing left and right last year– and then, boom! I had a freak skiing accident and tore my ACL. The dreaded freaking ACL.
My accident happened last March at Mohawk Mountain in Connecticut (which we love), I had surgery the first of April, and for the most part I’m doing much better. I’m exercising and back on track, but still shying away from certain movements that require lots of stopping and going, and have to stretch round the clock for it to feel somewhat normal. They say your knee doesn’t feel completely normal (if ever) until about a year post-opp, and it definitely doesn’t yet. But I’m feeling much better than I was this past spring. As I always say, I went to a dark place, came back (with a chuckle). It was my right knee, so I couldn’t drive for a month, and couldn’t take care of my girls for the first few weeks after surgery. Life as I knew it was put on hold. I know much worse things could happen, but it’s all about relativity right? Being an active person, the first couple of months were some of the toughest I’ve faced. I thought I’d never ski again. ACL is no joke – it requires an intensive and disciplined rehab program (some have likened it to a full-time job), and the pain after surgery is a true test. But then of course, I started to get better and doing more and more things as time went along. I am in a completely different place now than I was nine months ago, and thank god for that.
The problem is, a lot of other people aren’t. In the last couple of weeks, I know three people who just tore their ACL’s while skiing, and a few more who had other types of injuries due to skiing. This past weekend we were up in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, and we had a terrible scare with my friend’s daughter, and spent the evening in the ER. By the way, I am not skiing this winter. I don’t think I’m there yet. I am lodging it up, which is a-ok with me. I love ski lodges! Give me a book and a beer and I’m perfectly happy. But back to my friend. She and my girls and her daughter (my husband wasn’t skiing either due to an injury! Not ski related though) were out on the slopes at Catamount Mountain and suddenly I got a call from her from the mountain to get Ski Patrol, that her daughter had an awful fall. As I later learned, this is what happened: she was going around a bank turn and flew off the turn onto the other side of the slope (the non-slope part), landing in the boulders and ice. She was in pain, crying and couldn’t move her legs. Ski Patrol brought her down and after a while she started to feel better, saying the pain wasn’t as bad, but that she couldn’t move her legs. Catamount Ski Patrol was phenomenal, and thought that maybe she was just in a bad state of shock, but to take her to the ER to be on the safe side. After all, she couldn’t move her legs. So off we went.
As it turned out, she was ok, and indeed had gone into a complete state of shock, and that’s why she couldn’t move her legs. The poor thing. She’s 8. People who saw the accident on the mountain were talking about it, as my husband overheard, many people saying it was one of the craziest accidents they’d seen. Thank god she’s ok. And thank god she was wearing her helmut. Either way, it could have been much, much worse. We were thanking our lucky starts that night. But the accident did shake me up a bit, as it could have been one of my daughters who was skiing right behind her. Ski accidents happen all the time. Just the nature of the sport – being strapped into boots on skis, icy slopes, bumps and drops that are hard to see – lends itself to danger. And usually it’s not yourself you have to worry about but the people around you. Out of control skiers flying down the mountain, people not seeing each other, any number of things. But skiing is so much fun! It’s so adventurous! It’s so exhilarating! Taking the chair lift up the mountain, grabbing a hot chocolate on top, skiing down through the open air, zipping along through the tree trails – that’s what I remember as a kid growing up. I used to go on ski vacations with friends and conk out later by the fire, and it was SO MUCH FUN.
I want my girls to be able to experience that as well, which is why we didn’t make a big scene out of their friend’s fall. We certainly used it as an example of why you have to be careful out on the slopes and never go too fast and to be super vigilant (not that it was the friend’s fault…it was an accident), and to always pay attention basically, but we didn’t want to instill fear in them. The last thing we want is for them is to be too terrified to go out on the mountain…but we do want them to be aware. Awareness is all we can ask for I guess. Skiing will always go on, but it is a risky sport, no matter how you slice it. Some may say you can’t go through life living in fear – of flying, of sharks, of terrorist attacks. But we do know there is a certain risk we put ourselves and our children at when we go skiing. My accident, for example, was silly. I wasn’t even going downhill, I was just gliding along, when my daughter’s skis crossed mine and the next thing I knew I was going down in the most awkward of ways. I knew I was a goner as it was happening. It had nothing to do with age or experience or anything. Just a stupid little thing on a little mountain. And things like this happen all the time. I’m not going to ban skiing from our family because of it or the other accidents that continually happen, but must confess I do question whether or not I’m going to ski again myself. I probably will, but not without hesitation.
I’d love to know what everyone thinks about this topic, especially those with kids. Does skiing make you nervous? Does the risk factor even cross your mind? Because it really didn’t cross mine for so many years. But now, whenever my girls go out, I’m a little bit anxious.
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