Last winter Tony had a revelation, after 2 months of ski specific exercises his old damaged unhappy knee that hated skiing now loves it! After years of uncertainty now skis without fear or reservation! Over to Tony…
I have had a difficult relationship with skiing since the beginning. I was late to start the sport and when I did I was already suffering with a knee injury picked up in a climbing accident. This meant that my left leg was weak and vulnerable, and I was always fearful of the possibility of injuring it again. To compensate I learned to ski wearing various knee supports and ultimately even a metal hinged knee brace. This knee brace really did make me feel indestructible and finally I felt like I could start to embrace the sport, relax and enjoy the flow and speed. Unfortunately I was soon to learn that even these braces cannot protect against injury and at the end of a long enjoyable day’s skiing in Utah, on that “just one last run” on a mellow piste, my tired leg couldn’t protect my knee and it gave way while making a simple carving turn.
I knew immediately I had done serious damage as I lay in the snow and I thought that would be the end of my skiing forever. Six months later and I am beginning rehabilitation following an ACL reconstruction. Under the guidance of the NHS physiotherapist I learn to walk without a limp and slowly rebuild the strength and confidence in my now skinny withered leg. I already have an agenda, snowboarding in New Zealand in 12 months.
With a few exercises gleaned from Outside magazine I worked hard on high level hoping exercises to prepare to learn to snowboard. Snowboarding now seemed like the safest option with both legs bound to the same board protecting each other and plus in 2001 it was the cool sport to be doing. Two days of lessons and the progress is rapid, this is my new way to stay connected to snowsports and enjoy the mountains in winter.
In subsequent skiing holidays my wife went back to skiing and I stuck with the snowboard, happy to be out in the mountains, trying to keep up and putting up with the inconvenient traverses and also resigned to not ever scratching the itch that was alpine hut to hut skiing touring. Then a winter spent working in the Pyrenees on a terrible snow year finally pushed me to try skiing again as lapping the white motorways of artificial snow on the snowboard had become extremely dull. This forced me to face my fear and I was reduced to snow plowing down green pistes petrified. However progress was made and by the end of the season that was it for the snowboard.
Our skiing adventures continued with winter long motorhoming trips to the alps. We also did finally get to scratch that itch with a tour of the Bernese Oberland but I still faced my fears every time I clipped into the skis, skiing hesitantly and awkwardly whenever the going got tough. Plus my knee didn’t seem to like skiing, swelling up after the first day on the slopes and then remaining swollen for the rest of the winter until the skis were finally put away. To compensate I remained addicted to wearing uncomfortable tight fitting knee supports to put my mind at ease and try to limit the swelling. Gnawing at the back of my mind was the concern that skiing was doing damage to the knee that ultimately would come back to haunt me as arthritis.
Roll on to 2014 and we have moved near to Chamonix and heard the buzz about the SkiFit programme run by the Clinique du Sport. Its was time to take getting specifically fit for skiing seriously as now my wife also carried a knee injury and we were doubly motivated. For two months, twice a week, we did hour long SkiFit workouts, sometimes in the classes at the clinic, other times at home using the app and website, we worked our way up to completing SkiFit Phase 3. It was tough and there were times when the legs, butt and core would ache the following day, but as the weeks progressed we grew stronger and the exercises became easier.
Finally the snow came and it came very late in 2014. It was time to strap on the skis and put this training to the test. I started straight in at the deep end with an avalanche course in Tignes where we rode the lift to the top of the glacier, skied a third of a black piste and then headed off into the off-piste terrain. The fears were still there but the body and mind were ready and everything was fine. Two days later the skiing was still going well and to my surprise the knee remained its normal size and shape.
As the season progressed my confidence grew, the body felt strong and in control and my knee remained unswollen. Eventually I even removed my faithful knee support for the first time ever on skis and it made absolutely no difference! By the end of the season for the first time since my brace wearing incident I was finally relaxing and just enjoying the rush of skiing without the doubts and fears that had clouded my experience since the very start. Wow I realised, now I really do love skiing!
Now with the next winter season just months away it’s time for me to get started on the SkiFit programme again. Perhaps this time I will make it to Phase 4!