Mini skiing milestone(s)

Scott and I had made plans to go skiing this past Saturday as we had received a fair bit of snow during the week, and it was the least cold (high single digits Fahrenheit as opposed to low single digit temperatures) of the two weekend days. I was psyched to get more practice in and share it with a partner who is just so psyched about my progress. Scott was not feeling well on Friday night and warned me that he might not be up for skiing with me on Saturday. I spent Friday night mulling over whether to head up on my own or not. Now, in my youth, I did the majority of my skiing alone. I was much more of a loner than I am now (most people find that hard to believe, given how insular I can be) and thought nothing of driving 4+ hours each way to either a ski resort for some lift accessible boot-packing or some backcountry area (although I tried not to ski by myself too often in the backcountry, especially when avy danger was not low). But I had some hesitations this time round, because it would be my first time skiing without New England Disabled Sport (NEDS) or Scott, having to get on/off chairlifts by myself with a full chair load of people who probably aren’t used to seeing my one ski/outriggers setup, and managing to carry all my gear by myself up and down steps etc. Scott confirmed that he was not in shape to go up with me on Saturday morning and since me staying around wasn’t going to accelerate his recovery and I wanted to ski, I thought, fuck it, I should do this.

The drive up in the dark, quiet and cold reminded me of the countless early morning solitary drives up to Tahoe that I would do. It felt good in a way, perhaps because I felt a continued return to my “normal”. Because I was not renting via NEDS, I needed to rent my own gear. I arrived at a well-regarded ski shop in Lincoln, NH and told them what I was looking for: demo/high-performance ski and boot, boot size mondo-point 23.5, ski about 154cm long, 88mm underfoot, stiff and tip-rocker. With the ski, they delivered. When they walked out with the ski boots, I basically said, Are you shitting me? I had been presented with a two buckle ski boot with a flex index of 60 (for reference, a flex index of around 85-100 is considered “expert” and the new ski boots I ordered are of flex 90). I may be on the smaller side, but my feet are not kid sized and, WTF, small women rip it up too! I was not impressed with the initial attitude of, well, that’s all we’ve got so deal with it. Another employee stepped in and worked with me to find a solution with a size 24.5 boot (which they did have a stiff, four buckle versions of), by putting in a foot bed inside the boot liner and another foot bed between the liner and shell. He understood that because I was only skiing on one boot that it was important I wear a stiff boot. Also, at my request, the DIN setting on the bindings was cranked up from the recommended 6 (for a person of my weight, height and skier level (advanced)) to 9, because retrieving a popped off ski isn’t all that easy for me these days.

I thought that I should try out my “new” ski on a green run – big mistake. It was sluggish and I thought, oh my goodness, what is wrong with me, why am I not able to ski today? It was only when I moved to steeper blues and blacks that the much longer and beefier ski really shone. I managed to get on/off lifts without any incident. And I got pretty comfortable on icy black runs. I was surprised that not a single person asked me about my less than conventional setup while we were riding lifts. I wonder if it was out of fear of prying. I did receive a few compliments from folks as I was skiing down runs and pausing (to rest); two people asked if I was skiing on one ski because I had to or for fun. All in all, it was a successful day of skiing and I felt good that I was building up mileage on more advance terrain. I might need to start doing one-legged pistol squats to build up the strength and stamina in my right leg even more, but not neglecting my left leg because I still need to be able to keep it off the snow.

I’m not sure what I hate more: not being able to do certain physical things anymore, or the high cost of being physical and active. I found that after not even a full day of skiing on hard-pack and some bumps, I was in a lot of pain for the rest of the day and entire night (low back and neuropathy/spasms in my left leg), which prevented sleep. But what is the alternative, sitting on my arse all day? That would hurt too.

I just had a conversation with an old skiing partner, and it was the first time in, oh, half a decade, where we could shoot the shit and talk about gear again without me feeling sad. Same deal with the stack of SKI magazines Scott brought home. It took me a few years before I could read anything climbing related, and even longer to read anything related to skiing. A sign of continued healing, I guess.

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