Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2011 New Thing 4. Not what I had in mind for a new thing: learning to get around on crutches

My big plan for spring break 2011 (March 14-18) was to stay right here in lovely Vermont and soak up all the opportunities that came my way to work on my 2011 challenges during that time.  And I was off to a good start.  I went skating on Monday and then with Ali on Wednesday.  The ski season will be drawing to a close soon, and I was resolved that I'd go at least twice during the break as well.  On Tuesday Alexsis and I went to Smuggs and had a great time.
A happy day at Smuggs.  Note that Alexsis isn't even wearing her coat!

The top of Smuggs is very picturesque.  There's a guy stationed up there taking pictures to sell, but of course, Alexsis and I took our own.

But then on Thursday it all went, as the British like to say,pear-shaped.  Thursday was, of course, Saint Patrick's Day and the Mad River Glen ski resort was offering a killer deal: wear green and get a lift ticket for only seventeen dollars.  Who could resist that?  Certainly not Chris and I.  The catch is that Mad River Glen is not your ordinary ski resort.  In fact it's unique in a number of ways, beginning with the fact that it is technically a cooperative, owned by its members.  It also relies solely on Mother Nature for its snow since it has no snow-making equipment.  But it's two biggest claims to fame are that it is one of two resorts left in the country (the other is Alta in Utah) that doesn't allow snow-boarders and it is home to the last operational single chair lift in the country.  It also has a local reputation for having very challenging runs, so much so that its slogan is "Ski it if you can." 
Here's Chris riding the country's last operational single chair lift.

In our regular skiing trips to Smuggs Alexsis and I developed the habit of trying to do at least one run during the day that was a real challenge.  So, I thought I'd try to apply the same logic to Mad River Glen.  After spending the morning skiing trails marked as intermediate with embarrassingly diminutive names like "Bunny" while Chris raced down all kinds of black diamond (expert) runs, I thought I should try just one.  Yet another unique thing about Mad River is that while other resorts mark their advanced trails as single, double or triple diamonds, here they just put up a single black diamond for everything hard and let the skiers sort it out.  So, I selected one called Canyon because it had a short upper part and I figured if it were too much I'd get off after that and go to something easier.

Chris warned me that it would be hard, and stayed at the top of the trail so he could follow me to collect my skis when I inevitably fell and lost them on my way down, which is exactly what I did.  After doing a bunch of stop and start turns around the moguls (the hills of snow that make it so hard to navigate), I tried to do a few consecutively, got going too fast and crashed.  My skis came off, my knee got twisted and I slid downhill much more rapidly than I'd been skiing. Chris helped me collect myself and after I got back together I took my humbled self back to my easy trails.  My knee hurt but I didn't want to be a wimp, so I skied a couple more runs before realizing that it really hurt and I probably should stop.

After a sleepless night of not being able to find a way to place my knee that didn't hurt a lot, I got up the next morning to discover that I couldn't actually unbend it all the way.  I spent the morning at the Fanny Allen walk-in clinic, (where I had an only-in-Vermont moment when both the doctor and the nurse who saw me teased me for thinking I could handle Mad River Glen as a novice skier) and discovered I had strained my medial collateral ligament (MCL). Happily, it turns out that this is one that tends to heal on its own. 

So now I am hobbling on crutches and discovering what many other people already knew, which is that the world does not go out of its way for the temporarily or permanently disabled.  The hardest part, which I had never given a thought to before, is that if your hands are full with crutches, they can't be used for carrying things, which makes grocery shopping an interesting experience (but fine if you have a loyal friend like Siham carrying your basket around for you).  And stairs are a very major pain. For the first time ever I am welcoming the fact that it's mud season here in Vermont, because it's a lot easier (albeit messier) to keep upright in the mud than on the ice that coated the sidewalks just a week or two ago.  Luckily for me, I think my MCL will heal quickly (my knee already has a lot more range of motion than a few days ago), but the experience has taught me some important things about my own limitations (on the ski slopes and off) and about how great it is to have supportive people in one's life.  Lots of people offered all kinds of help, everything from running errands for me to giving me rides to work, and Chris and Siham (who was up for the weekend) especially have been champs.
Happily, my crutches didn't keep us from celebrating Maple Syrup weekend.  Here are Chris, Siham and I on Saturday during our tour of the Northeast Kingdom's sugaring operations.  That was its own New Thing, and together with the maple cook-a-thon on Sunday, will get its very own post.

So, my ski season for this winter has come to an abrupt end.  Here's hoping for a quick recovery and a chance to get back to the other challenges of 2011.


  1. Wrap a washcloth or hand towel around each of the under-arm pads to make them easier on the underarms. I remember mine hurting a lot until I did that.

  2. Sorry to hear about your fall and your injury and I hope you are feeling 100% soon! I was on crutches once, for a really bad sprained ankle, and yes, the ADA was a very good thing but it didn't solve all problems for those permanently or temporarily disabled.
    I want to see rugelach pictures!