I was not anticipating skiing three days in a row, because I had not expected snow conditions to be that great, and I also did not expect to have the endurance or my back to hold up to all the bumps and impact. The journey to Montrose, CO (the closest airport to Ouray and Telluride) was a stressful one. The connection time in Chicago was extremely tight; I am much more aware of such things given that I cannot sprint from gate to gate anymore. Despite the delay in taking off from Boston, my connecting flight was also significantly delayed, so my baggage and myself made it on the plane just fine. Unfortunately, a storm had rolled into Montrose, reducing visibility to distances less than FAA regulations. After circling above Montrose for awhile, our flight was diverted to Grand Junction and after a period of uncertainty, we were finally bused down to Montrose as the snow was really coming down. Fortunately, I did not have to drive very far as I was spending the night with a dear friend who happens to live in Montrose now.
The next day (Monday) was spent shoveling and resting from the day of travel, as air-travel is very uncomfortable for my leg and back.
The storm had made for great conditions at Telluride, so I drove up early on Tuesday to connect with Telluride Adaptive Sports, who had kindly hooked me up with lift-tickets for Tuesday and Thursday. My original plan had been to just ski by myself. Although all my skiing pre-accident had been done out West and I was very familiar with these kinds of conditions, my experience skiing as a three-tracker had been on East Coast ice and hard-pack exclusively. Thus I thought it would behoove me to receive some instruction on what to do with my outriggers and skis in Western bumps and snow conditions.
Being able to not ski with a full-face balaclava, and take off your gloves without getting frost-bite, was a joy for me, given my poor experiences with the bitter cold in New England resorts.
I am really glad I signed up for the half-day lesson and had someone with a tremendous amount of experience offer me advice on how to ski in deeper powder. It turns out that my outriggers, which had been sized when I was still skiing down mostly groomed moderates, were far too long on steeper terrain/bumps. I saw a photo of myself with them and that really highlighted how inappropriate they were for me. For reference, my instructor is 6’3″, 6’5″ in skis and boots, and my outriggers fit him rather well. So that was a very useful piece of information.
Here I am figuring things out in deeper, softer snow (apologies for poor media quality):
You can see just how overly long my outriggers are. In spite of this, I was on bumpy black runs pretty soon after. I will be replacing my current outriggers with a shorter pair.
As I got into deeper snow, my left foot kept getting caught in the snow, causing my hips to rotate out and things quickly going to shit after that. One idea I have is to stick heavy-duty velcro on the inside of my ski pant legs, so that I can lock my legs together but pull them apart with enough force. Guess I’ll be vandalizing a pair of ski pants when I return home.
I learned a lot in a short period of time. In bumps/moguls, being super light on the uphill outrigger is key as is anticipating the turn, looking for where to place your downhill outrigger (not my ski), and facing down the fall line, obviously. As I tire, I tend to lean on the uphill outrigger more, which always ends poorly.
I was pretty gassed by the end of the day, as I had skied a bunch on my own in the morning, and had my three hour lesson in the afternoon. But I had learned so much from Mike, my instructor, that I wanted to take another half-day lesson with him the next day. Tuesday night was spent eating a lot to compensate for my lack of calories during the day, inhaling a lot of Aleve, and just trying to recover for the next day.
Wednesday was a skiing highlight for me. I got down my first legit (legit in that it was long, steep, thigh/hip high bumps) double-black run as a three-tracker, while my legs were still fairly fresh, and bombed down a steep, but groomed, double-black run…all in fairly good style, I think. At one point, a group of German-speakers asked me “What is this??” That was amusing. I received quite a few compliments from them and other folks, which was nice for the ego.
Again, I thought I would not ski the next day given how tired I was. But, when I woke up on Thursday and saw the new snow and clear skies, I thought I could not miss these conditions that are not found on the East Coast.
My legs were not fresh as they were yesterday, but we still got a fair bit of mileage in on steep, bumpy, un-groomed black and double-black runs. The difference in gear requirements is quite apparent between the East and West. While I had gotten a very stiff boot to deal with East Coast hard-pack, and thinking that I had to be totally locked down in my boots because I was only on one ski, I need to soften things up and play around with the flex in my boot for Western conditions. Having a wider and softer ski will help too. There are also attachments you can add to your outriggers to give them more floatation in powder:
I was fortunate to have the company of Danika, a woman I had not known well before this trip, but had invited me to stay with her, after we had connected at last year’s Paradox Ouray event. My original reason for arriving earlier than the start of this year’s Paradox Ouray weekend, was to help Danika give ice-climbing instruction to a group of veterans from Alaska. The group did not end up coming; thus we had time to ski. It’s funny…I would never say my accident was a blessing, and I wished it had never happened. But, it did open up many wonderful people to me that I would never have met – Danika is one such person.
I am really looking forward to helping Danika guide a blind-climber tomorrow. I am sure I will be saying all sorts of cringe-worthy things to this fellow. For example, it came up that Danika had never met him in person and only chatted over the phone. I asked, Oh, have you guys Skyped? Face-palm. I recall doing something similar with a quadriplegic woman. We met and my first instinct, which I followed, was to extend my hand out in introduction. And then I immediately thought, Oh God Wendy, you’re a fuckin’ idiot.