A “Tail” of a Whale Adventure in Three Acts

ACT I

Last Friday, a monstrous spring snowstorm promised downed powerlines and trashed landscaping in Colorado. My husband, Danny, and I shrugged and headed up to the mountains. We looked forward to tremendous ski conditions and assumed we would share the highway with many others. Forecasters predicted snow in feet.

Funny thing. As we merged onto I-70 in Golden, our daughter, Courtney, called on her way home from work. She had to pack and pick up a friend before driving up to meet us in Breckenridge.

As expected, we got stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. One mere mile outside of Georgetown, we came to a dead halt. CDOT had closed the highway hours earlier because of “hazardous driving conditions,” but we had ignored all the warning signs.

I-70 in snowstorm

Then Courtney called. She had just started on I-70. I suggested taking the frontage road to Georgetown instead of the crowded highway.

An hour later, we started to inch forward. As we passed Georgetown, Danny said, “I think we just passed Courtney’s car.

They ended up right behind us. No lie.

ACT II

It’s been over a year since my partial knee replacement. Before going under the crazy laser scalpel, that is Makoplasty, to replace messed up bone and cartilage, I could only ski two, maybe three runs before calling it a day. Since surgery, I’ve been careful.

Peak 7

 

The dump of snow proved to be heavenly for skiers and snowboarders. Saturday, I sailed through fifteen inches of ice cream snow in Breckenridge and took NINE runs. Courtney and I quit before exhaustion caused a crash and burn scenario. She had a business trip in Utah the next day.

snowboarder Courtney Lindau at Peak 7

On our way down the gondola, we met three people in the medical field from California. They all looked twenty-five because California. One was an orthopedic surgeon. Whoa! I asked him about my squeaking, squawking knee after replacement. He said that was normal for some people. YAY! Then he added the technology was so new, they don’t know how much time we have before wearing it out. Bummer. I did point out that I was pretty small and wouldn’t stress out my joints as much as a linebacker.

That boosted my confidence. It concurred with some on my online research for mule-kicking, hee-hawing knees. I tuned out the part about not knowing how much time I have on these manufactured parts.

Forecasters predicted more snow, so I planned to ski again on Sunday.

ACT III

Sunday night seven more inches dropped. A little stiff and sore from the day before, I headed out with the intention to ski a couple of runs and quit early. My son, Kelly, and I, took three chairlifts to meet his girlfriend and Danny on the top of Imperial. As we ascended into a cloud and white-out conditions, I assumed we would ski down the face.

Nope.

Danny led us to Whale’s Tail.

Whale's Tail

My favorite bowl, in the shape of its name, had just opened for the first time that weekend. Danny said it would be filled with feet of deep powder, meaning sweet, easy skiing for me.

I followed my group by sidestepping up the mountain to the steep catwalk. Yes. This was farther into the deceptive angelic clouds masking a sheer head wall on the edge of the bowl forming the tail fin.

Then it hit me.

They hadn’t skied it.

We had no idea what conditions existed. I wasn’t sure if my knee could handle heavy, deep snow.

It had been painful to ski Whale’s Tail before surgery and I hadn’t skied it since. My shoulders tightened as we hugged the mountain. Then we skied down to the edge.

I would be dropping into my favorite run from a cornice, but we were still in thick clouds and it snowed hard. We had very low visibility. I wouldn’t be able to see where I was going.

I wanted to ski down to the middle of the tail and drop into my usual spot. Everyone else wanted to drop in from the tip of the fin. I lost.

looking down whales tail

Whale’s Tail on a clear day.

I had always had skied this after several warm up runs.

This was my first run of the day.

I stood on the edge of the mountain and looked down. As everyone dropped in, they disappeared into the cloud.

FullSizeRender (7)

In the cloud.

I freaked.

Then I had a flashback to my heli-ski trip. After being dropped off on a mountaintop by helicopter the first time, I followed the group and carved fresh tracks alongside the rest. Sounds wonderful, right? My new boots dug into my calves. The skis they provided seemed way too long for me. They chattered while I carved turns in the wet, deep snow. It put tremendous stress on my knees. I didn’t know how to up-weight through the turns and fought through every one of them. I lagged behind and then watched in horror as our guide headed into the trees. I had never been a tree skier. I couldn’t control my crazy equipment.

Hail Mary’s became my mantra.

I made it through the trip and learned a lot about skiing and myself. Sometimes I had to dig deep.

This time, I took a deep breath and dropped in.

My pole sunk into the soft fin, never reaching bottom, unbalancing and thrashing me about. Unsupported and unsure, I kept my weight over my skis instead of my more aggressive stance on a steep incline.

When I turned to the left, I said, “This is your good knee.” When I turned to the right, I said, “Right turns have always been your strongest.” I said this every time, back and forth and back and forth until I reached the bottom.

As I caught my breath, I looked back up the mountain. It had cleared and the word was out. Tons of skiers learned there were fresh tracks to be made on Whale’s Tail.

skiers and boarders on Whale's Tail Breckenridge

Those dots are people along the ridge to give you scale. Scale on the fin of Whale’s Tail. Ha!

 

They hooted and hollered as they made their way down the fresh snow. Some tumbled. Others face-planted, but they all had fun in the deep snow.

My knee felt strained as if I had taken twenty runs already. Pain from tendons and muscles made me wonder if I would make it down the rest of the mountain. I wasn’t even halfway.

Danny caught up with me.

Danny skiing Whale's Tail

I was furious. “I can’t believe you took me down this. It was my first run.”

“You did great!” he said and then reminded me of rule #1: “A skier never trusts their friends. Not when there’s fresh powder.”

As I iced my knee at Vista Lodge, I swore I would never ski anything that difficult again. The orthopod’s warning rushed back and I felt like I was on borrowed time. I had to face facts.

More snow dumped in Breckenridge as we drove back to Boulder. I woke up and expected to be gimped out and limping, but my muscles only felt the usual strain after exercise. We only lost one branch in the wet snow over the weekend.

Both the trees and I survived.

If we had skied another day, would I have played it safe? Would I stick to easy runs? Keep my knee functioning as long as possible?

Nah. I’m going to wear a full-on knee brace next time.

I am kind of a Wild Child.

Do you take chances to live your life? Has fear gotten the best of you? What is holding you back?

74 thoughts on “A “Tail” of a Whale Adventure in Three Acts

  1. I’ve never been snow skiing. I’m glad that you are okay, but will admit that reading this made me nervous for you. All that sliding downhill on purpose seems crazy to me. Still, if this is how you get your jollies, then go for it. I’ll meet you in the bar when you’re done, okay?

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    • Thanks, Ally!
      Sounds like a great plan!
      I’ve always enjoyed the sense of speed whether biking, running, or skiing. It’s thrilling, but it also takes me to all kinds of great places and views. One of my favorite ways to ski is taking a different run every time. I get bored easily! Ha!

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  2. Wow, sounds like you had an amazing couple of days of skiing. We skied a massive bowl in Whistler a few years ago. I found it a little overwhelming to drop in, but once you’re in, it is amazing!

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    • I would love to ski Whistler! That sounds like a blast! My daughter is going there this summer for yoga and I might bum along. Wrong time of year for skiing, but it’s supposed to be beautiful!
      Thanks, Lynn!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have not been in the summer but friends of ours live there & they tell us that it is as busy in the summer with activity as it is in the winter. I understand there are some wonderful hikes on the mountain! And yes, it is so beautiful!

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    • Thanks, Mary! I just looked down and went for it.
      I lost my self-confidence after surgery. I’m never sure about what my knee can take. This is the way to build it along with finding a really good brace. Ha!

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    • Thanks, Hook!
      I got the hat a small WordPress conference in Denver. It fits perfectly under my helmet.
      I’m working on the fear part, but I’m getting there. As I test out my knee, I’m getting more confident in what I can do. If I had skied without any fear, I don’t think I would have tweaked it. Tightening up is death! It’s like chickening out of a dive. Have you done that? OUCH!

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  3. Hahahaha! 25- because California LOL yeah that’s exactly how it is. Also, good for you for going after it after your surgery! You have many adventures… 🙂

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  4. Be careful. You know, there is such a thing as, “You guys go ahead, I’ll meet you at the bottom.” That would indeed be carving your own path – down the intermediate slope.

    Good for you, but do be careful. Keep you knee alive to ski another day.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

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    • Thanks Patricia!
      Once I took that lift, I had committed to expert skiing. Skiing down the face would have been a whole lot easier. Looking back, skiing is a lot easier on my knee than tennis! No pounding, only twisting to worry about. Once I get a proper brace, I’ll be aces!

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  5. Sometimes you never know what will aggravate an old injury. I’ve put my knee out just standing up! It’s gotta stop snowing in CO because I’m going out soon but to hike, not ski!

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    • One day, I stood for a long time. That aggravated it more than skiing! I must have locked my knees.
      We’ll see. May can be wintry up there or it could be totally springlike. A-basin is going to stay open for skiing through June!

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  6. You Wild Rider! I learned a valuable lesson a few years ago with my body that has slowed me down on a few things and other things I have learned to adapt to continue doing. I was not ready to surf the couch so I am aware of my limitations and love trying new things and adventuring along. Happy Adventuring – Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

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    • We have to make choices! I’ve cut back on tennis since pretty hard on my knees. At least if I do a little trail running, the soft terrain is lower impact. Skiing is super easy on them and it was recommended by my doctor to build up my thigh muscles. I don’t think he had heavy snow conditions on Whale’s Tail in mind. Ha!
      Happy adventuring to you, Renee!

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  7. I envy your love of skiing. I took it up at 40 when we moved to Switzerland because, well, Alps! My first winter, just as I was gaining some confidence, I skied into a stone wall. Wanting to spare my knees, I managed to hit it with my head. They don’t warn you of stuff like that in France. Those slopes are cow pastures in the off-season.

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      • It was off to the side just slightly and covered with snow. No orange fencing or anything. I had been going a little too fast and headed towards it to slow down. I saw the rock at the last second! Ouch!

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        • Oh, god. That sounds terrible. They should have marked it!
          My son pointed out a big rock marked under the chairlift. He had taken that run the weekend before and it wasn’t marked. The rock caught his board and he faceplanted. Good thing he didn’t really hurt himself.
          Skiing is an extreme sport!

          Liked by 1 person

          • I always figured that if this happened in the US I’d own the resort!

            I never did get good enough to be considered extreme. But oh do I love the mountains in the snow!

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            • You would own it!
              I posted this link on Stumbleupon and it had the option of “extreme” sports or “general.” I didn’t know what skiing was considered, so I googled extreme sports. There it was!

              Liked by 1 person

    • I’m keeping it WILD! And no one will see it under my ski pants. Ha!
      I have the elastic ones now, but I really need the heavier duty one for confidence. As long as I can’t twist it and my skis release, I’ll be golden!

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  8. You can tell a whale of a tale, Susie. Looks lovely – and exhausting ( Never trust ski friends! But then again better to take on the biggest obstacle while you are fresh…not a fan of trees…that’s why i love Canadian Rockies so much HA HA)
    Protect, but keep living with that knee! Go wild.

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    • Thanks, Phil!
      I should know better! Ha! Danny, of all people, will lead anyone down the path to fresh powder.
      We were in the trees a lot in Canada. They’re really fun if the conditions are right. I have to remember to look at the snow, not the trees!
      Where did you ski in Canada?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Trees…mesmerizing…wonder if it’s like cars – you steer where you are looking? We used to go up to the Banff area – my favorite spots were above the timberline: plenty of room for all and no trees.
        But if you aren’t into drag racing downhill, trees can be lovely to wind among….but I always seemed to be with friends who loved speed and learned to ski as kids….

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  9. After wiping out on a ski lift many years ago, (I’m 50 something) I commend you for your bravery ❤ After wiping out on the ski life, the sign at the top of the run was this was for experienced downhill skiers. Thank you to my older sister who said she would get me to the bottom and then disappeared, ahhhhh…I never did get back up on the horse that threw me. No regrets, I lived and I had many children who needed me to stay alive so they could be born. Blessings to you on those slopes ❤

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  10. Duuuuuuuuuude as someone who has had knee surgery before I was soooooo scared reading this! Freaking out and hoping you would be all right. Phew! Wild Rider! You totally freaked me out. But so glad you dig down deep and made it. Glad you learned something about yourself through sports. Those are always the best lessons and tend to stick longer. Glad you had a great adventure on fresh powder and yes! Wear a full on bionic brace next time! Glad you were out and about and GREAT pictures!

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    • Thanks, Guat!
      It was a challenge, but I am planning to brace it up next time. What kind of knee surgery did you have? Arthroscopic?

      The interesting thing about skiing is you have to keep your weight forward to go downhill. Talk about facing your fear. You have to just GO! The deep, heavy powder conditions are unusual, so I should feel more confident next time!
      Have you ever skied?

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  11. nah, don’t click to my blog! however: i’m “over the hill” from susielindau and yes, that storm rolled over our house and gathered momentum (and packages of ice and snow) as it rolled over the divide onto the other side. sighed. i yoosta ski and loved it but do equally crazy things instead, now. (like ice-hockey goalie. i might even do that if it wasn’t for the beer).

    still… your account brought back me(s)moreez and i think i can actually FEEL/grok/intuit skier’s accounts of wha gwan.

    thanx ~ ! (and you have the WerdPress logo on yore hat !? heh ! )

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    • Thanks for dropping by the Wild Ride, eh! When I first moved to Colorado from Wisconsin, they placed me in Canada. Yep. I wore my WordPress toque. It fits perfectly under my helmet.
      So you’re a goalie, eh? For what team?

      Liked by 1 person

      • usually the “wednesday night “old man’s league”” (but women are encouraged to show up and some do, and they lowered the bar and half the people are under 40. i think i’m the only goalie over 40, in the event we have to exclude the under 40’s … i’m retiring next week and will consider the “monday night not-so-old league”. (the arena is in GrandJunction, ya’ know, “over the hill” from ya’)

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  12. Sounds wonderful!! Some day I’d like to ski in Colorado. I’ve been to New York and West Virginia, but mostly I ski in Ohio where I live.
    When we went to West Virginia on a ski trip, my sisters cut out after half a day and I decided to go back out with some of the guys in our group. I must admit I was a bit nervous as I’ve always been a ski within my limits and enjoy a slow leisurely pace kinda gal. I knew these guys weren’t gonna be that style! After skiing for years (all though high school,) I’m pleased to report that I kept up with them and had a blast!
    Years later, I broke the news to my sister that I was pregnant on a ski lift (I knew she’d bail if I waited any longer!) She was thrilled (after a good chastising!) Of course I was very careful that time and didn’t fall once!
    We’ve had a pretty sad winter here. We had one good snow and I opted to go tubin with the fam, so I haven’t been skiing this year. Thank you for allowing me to live vicariously through you!!!

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  13. Listening to Flaming Lips’ – ‘Watching the Planets’ great ski music, Soul Fire by ‘Tom – Tom Club…

    -Susie I have wanted to ask of you how you busted you knee up. as to require implanting your dear ACME synthetic squeaker – gee – haw’ knee insert, but I didn’t want to be intrusive, and over step your boundaries. Mostly because you look like you could take me out with a well place Irish Ring mitt.

    -I think it’s cool that you were stuck in slow traffic along with your dear Daughter Courtney, I mean if you have to be in grid lock, that way if anything went wrong with her car. Boulder sounds like it may be a cross between Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho and Eugene, Oregon, which sounds like the best of both places combined. I was wondering about your hippy / organic market culture there Boulder?

    -You guys look cute in your snow gear, and Danny and you make a cute couple. My sporting advice du jour is: When on hikes, on ski runs, never be the last in line, because the last in line are always the first selected targets of Apex Predators like white ermine, cute and wee but vicious it they think your knitted ski cap would make for sufficient nesting material. 🙂

    Like

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