Saturday, February 17, 2007

Longer and stiffer

I've been planning for the last two weeks or so to try skiing again, and for the last two weeks or so I've been feeling a lot of fear around the idea. I'm not a guy who gets scared easily, but this was pretty visceral. Anyway, I did it today as much to get it out of the way as for any other reason. Turns out it's fun!

The whole skiing adventure started with a visit to the resort's snowboard shop. I'm having a somewhat nebulous issue with my back foot and was considering putting a heel lift under the binding, a part that used to be relatively common but has since disappeared. I also took the opportunity to look at the clearance ski boots in the shop's back room - my thought was that if I decided to relearn skiing, whether or not I ended up buying skis right away I'd need my own boots, so they could be fit to my feet and I could get fancy insoles custom molded to my feet put in them (makes a huge difference.) Anyway, after trying on a pair of Tecnicas that fit really well, I was way too excited about the idea to not actually rent some skis and try it. If you weren't sure, by the way, rental boots suck. The rental technician, who I think doesn't ski, tried to put me on 150cm skis, which would be a humiliating 10cm shorter than my snowboard. I went with 170s.

I started by riding up the bunny hill. It felt like riding up the first really tall, straight piece of track on a roller coaster. I was just a little terrified. Anyway, I offloaded without falling, maneuvered myself onto the piste, and somehow managed to do some pretty okay carved turns and a hockey stop at the bottom. Didn't even snowplow. After that, I went on some steeper runs and finally on a run from the top of one of the two taller lifts, for 1200 vertical feet. Since when I stopped skiing, I seem to have developed the ability to do linked turns, and I'm pretty sure that I'm also better at keeping my body pointed down the fall line while I move my legs from side to side.

My biggest worry was that my knees weren't going to be able to deal with all the extra lateral and torsional stress. As I'm writing, the muscles immediately above the knee feel a bit tight, but I'm not feeling swollen, and nothing hurt while I was skiing. On the snowboard, if my binding angles are wrong something always hurts, and when I ride more challenging terrain, my left knee tends to get pretty beat up. Of course, I didn't ski anything as challenging as what I'll take my board down on a typical day, but it seems like this is something that my body can handle. I suppose it's possible that I won't be able to ski off-piste, but groomers are fun too. Tomorrow is the true test - either I'll get up feeling great (or slightly sore) or I'll get up feeling great, try to step out of bed, and have trouble with the whole "load bearing" concept. So I'm going to ask all my readers to cross their fingers and toes, and maybe make burnt offerings to the Snow Gods to intercede with the knee problem demons on my behalf.

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