It’s hard to believe it has been a little over eight weeks since I broke my collarbone. The timing of the break (early March) led me to believe that picking myself up off the ground at my local hill and dragging myself to the Emergency Room would be how my ski season ended this year. With an estimated early May recovery date, the optimistic me believed I could score some runs at Tuckerman’s once I was given the green light to resume normal activity. The realistic me always believed that Tuckerman’s Ravine is not the place you go to regain confidence and make your first turns after a prolonged absence. The practical me has relished being able to sleep and sit on the couch like a normal person again and, in the interest of self-preservation, was going to avoid anything that remotely offered the chance of re-injury.
Last week the orthopedist gave me the okay to resume most activity, with the stipulation that I should avoid any pursuit where I could fall on or someone could hit me in my collarbone. Up to this point, I had written of ski season. I had a great season before getting injured and what my body needed was time to recover and make sure I would be 100% percent ready for next season. However, when the doctor asked if I had any questions the words burst out of my mouth: “what about skiing?” Hopeful I sat awaiting an answer and what I was given was a slightly ambiguous “As long as you don’t fall.” With a smirk, my orthopedist went on to clarify that if I chose mellow terrain that I was positive I could stay upright on then he saw reason not to ski. Of course, accidents happen and even expert skiers catch an edge or suffer snow snake attack from time to time, but surely I could find an easy run somewhere…
It didn’t take long after leaving the doctor to get an invite to ski at Cannon with some friends on Saturday. Decision time came fast: just how badly did I want to ski? And what was the acceptable level of risk I was willing to take in order to make some late-season turns? Knowing that if I fell I would most likely be destined for surgery and another eight weeks on the couch made me cautious, but being aware that I could just as likely trip in my driveway or on my afternoon run and re-injure myself made me think about going for it. Shy of quarantining myself in a bubble until I am fully healed, there will always be some risk of re-injury. So I said yes.
Upon arriving at Cannon Mountain, I was impressed with how much snow was left for the middle of May. While skiing top to bottom was not an option, the upper half of the mountain was in fantastic shape and you could ski the majority of the mountain’s lower half by connecting snowfields. I’m not sure the doctor would have approved; even though the resort offers wide open trails, the mountain has been closed for almost a month (no grooming), there were a lot of bare patches and some substantial moguls, and Cannon is pretty shy on mellow terrain to begin with (especially on the upper mountain, especially-especially when nothing has been groomed).
I tentatively clicked into my skis on Cannon’s summit and prepared to descend. My first few turns were nervous and when I stopped my legs were shaking, but it felt great to be back. Throughout the day I became more confident and my turns became more fluid. I certainly wasn’t in mid-season form, but at least I looked like I had skied before (I hope). I skied cautiously all day, never opened it up, side-slipped anything that looked intimidating, and in the end I was super grateful that I went. Thanks to my friends who gave me the push to get back out there (and who patiently waited for me as I inched up and down the mountain). While I am bummed that I missed the winter that just didn’t want to quit, I’m lucky that it provided enough snow for skiing in May and gave me a much finer way to close out the season than at the ER.