Injury is a part of the game for any athlete, no matter the sport. Personally, as a skier, I have a laundry list of injuries that is far longer than I am proud to admit. But I don’t regret them, because they have taught me invaluable lessons about skiing, about myself, and about life.
Last month, during one of the last great powder storms of the year, I fractured my elbow when I backslapped the landing of a cliff. Fortunately, it was a small fracture that didn’t require a cast or surgery.
Rather than sitting back and thinking about the opportunities I was missing out on, I decided to go ski with my arm in a sling instead. Normally I’m pretty conservative with skiing through injuries, but this one is very insignificant, so I justified it in my head to keep skiing. After all, it was good for my soul and skiing in the sling taught me some valuable lessons. Below are a handful of those lessons, along with some thoughts and reflective notes that I made while skiing in the sling for the past month.
This is nothing. I have been reminded of that fact every time I go skiing. A small fracture in my elbow is nothing more than a blip on the radar, and for that I am super grateful.
Slow down. Skiing with the sling on has helped me realize that I get caught up in skiing fast all the time. By slowing down a bit, I have been able to focus on more things with my skiing. And I have been able to ski in a couple places I typically never would.
It has helped me ski smoother. When I first started skiing with the sling on, there was still some uncertainty in my mind about how bad the injury was. Subconsciously, or maybe even consciously, I ended up trying to protect the arm. Regardless though, it didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t have to feel like I needed to protect it if I just skied smoother.
It was refreshing to look at the mountain differently. When I ski with the sling on, I’m not always looking for a place to catch air or straight-line out. I’m not looking for anything specific to be honest; I just ski what is in front of me. It was at those times that I felt like I was skiing my best and that I was being the most creative with the terrain at hand too. Hopefully those results carry over.
Keep it fun and light-hearted. Last week I skied with a crew of guys that I typically wouldn’t find myself with. We weren’t charging or skiing anything crazy. We just skied whatever we wanted and laughed at each other while hitting side booters. Because at the end of the day, no matter what you’re doing, if you’re on skis, it’s probably pretty damn fun.
The sling forced me to re-focus on the foundations of technique. The greatest challenge in skiing with my right arm tucked up close has been driving pressure through the front half of my right ski, especially when it is my downhill ski. To fix this, I focused on widening my stance, and squaring up with my hips and shoulders with the fall line. Finally, I was able to drive through the turn better with my hips and shoulders, rather than my arm.
Skiing makes me smile. If you know me, you know that skiing makes me a very happy human. But this experience has been reassuring that it is just skiing that makes me happy. It’s not that I always need the adrenaline rush of going fast and hitting airs to be happy and smile when I’m skiing. (Of course I smile real big about those too.) This is something that was also reassuring and gave me a lot of confidence when I was getting back on snow after my last major injury, so it’s good to have it validated again.
I just had a visit with my doctor yesterday and it sounds like things are healing up well, so hopefully I can stop skiing with the sling soon. But this experience has been fun. I’ve learned a lot and I’m still so grateful and stoked that it is such an insignificant injury. Also, my doctor didn’t mention anything about my goggle tan yesterday, so I’m hoping that means he didn’t realize that I’ve been skiing.
Keep it fun out there, friends. Thanks for reading.