Tomorrow, January 28, 2012, I get back on the ski slopes for the first time since April of 2009. But this time I’ll be going the adaptive route—first on a sit bi-ski (tethered to mindful instructors) and then, as I get a feel for the snow, a sit mono-ski (no tether, just worried instructors waiting to right me after a crash). Maybe as the season progresses, maybe, I’ll try going solo on my snowboard just for grins on the easy slopes. That’ll be as challenging mentally as it is physically.
See, I used to be an expert, double-black diamond snowboarder. For years I was hitting the steeps at Squaw Valley, going off-piste in Austria, powder surfing in the Canadian Rockies, and parachuting down the verticals of Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. After getting diagnosed in 2005, my snowboarding took a hit. Grrr. I eventually had to give up moguls—they were just too taxing. As the 2008/09 ski and snowboard season loomed, I knew my skills* were on the down slope. Now I could have sat around and cried in my beer, but what would that accomplish—other than watering down perfectly good beer? So I went for it… and I got in my first runs of that season in September on the other side of the world in gorgeous New Zealand (aka, Middle-earth).
It started out a disaster, as I was able to barely clunk down the hill. (Picture a drunken sailor … who walks the plank, plank breaks, he washes ashore on some remote island in the Pacific—saved by said plank—and then shockingly ends up at the top of the Remarkables ski area, tucked into the mountain range shown above, on a snow-slicked blue run. Truly a bender of benders. Still drunk, he straps the plank to his feet and tries to board. That’s about what it was like.) But my wife said to keep going and to stop my blubbering about looking like a drunken sailor.
Eventually my legs cooperated, my brain remembered, and soon I was sailing again. Well, sort of. Getting to the lift was the hardest part. On one lift that served blue and black terrain only, I asked the lifties to slow ‘er down so I could skate out. Concerned they were dealing with a clueless beginner from the US who was about to get in waaay over his head, they shouted to me, “Why?” “Because I have a bloody disease,” I yelled back. The lift slowed down.
Am I nervous about tomorrow? Yeah. Am I excited? Hell yeah! With this disease—this bloody disease—sometimes you just have to roll with the punches, no matter how much they sting.
*I cannot help but think of Napoleon Dynamite whenever I use the word “skills.” And actually, yes, I do have some rudimentary numchuck skills. Not very practical, unfortunately.
Originally published in part January 4th, 2008. Edited for clarity and expanded.