Day one was nervewracking, unfamiliar, and cautious. Day two was rough and ready, but a blast.
My regular ski buddy K and I were reunited for a day on the slopes at Cypress. The forecast was for light snow, but the heavy rain at sea level had barely solidified into slush as we arrived in the parking lot. After fretting considerably about the conditions for most of the previous 24 hours (I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea for me to be skiing in fresh snow at all, even powder) by that point all I cared about was getting onto my skis and getting out there.
The conditions were, by any normal standards, abysmal. Low cloud blanketed the mountain, and the semi-snow that was falling was just wet enough to cling to goggles and create an icy, impenetrable mask. About ten centimetres of slushy snow had fallen on top of the groomers, leading to piles of wet, heavy cement on every run. It was a perfect day for catching edges and taking tumbles, and about as unsuited to testing out a fragile new knee as possible.
My knee rode it all out, and then some. I’m still not skiing well; I’m contending with start-of-season unfamiliarity, a left leg that feels completely different than it used to, muscle atrophy, and underlying concerns about the knee’s ability to deal with skiing this far ahead of my official release to full activity. But once I hauled myself out of the backseat, I was able to ski strongly and well enough to build up some reasonable speed and cut through the piles of heaped, messy snow rather than bouncing off them. I even found myself missing my Shoguns like crazy; the rockered tip would have blown over all the wet, heavy crud in my path. I don’t think my leg is strong enough to manage them yet, but a few more days like that and it might just get there.
On the last couple of runs of the day I opened it up and let it rip as much as I could given the conditions and my own limitations. By that point my quads were whimpering in protest (I guess 300,000 SLRs and 100,000 leg presses still aren’t enough to prepare for the rigors of skiing) and the muscles around the knee were letting me know that they hadn’t been put through anything resembling this kind of workout for the past 8 months, but I didn’t care. For the first time in a long time, I was flying; and the last thing I wanted was to stop and find myself limping slowly away on the ground again.
I still don’t entirely trust that I’m ready for this. I know that my physiotherapist is 100% confident that I am; I know that in two weeks I’ll be 7 months out from surgery, and at the point in my rehab program where I start testing the knee as hard as possible before a release to full activity a month later. But I still don’t believe, for some reason, that I’m actually ready and able to ski. I don’t know how many days on the mountain it will take for me to have faith in myself, and to believe that it’s real. In some ways I hope I never lose the sense of wonder that I have right now, this feeling I’ve had since my injury that every day on the slopes is a gift.
I can’t wait for day three.