Back in the bindings

My first question to the surgeon was: “will I ever be able to ski again?” 

Born and raised in the upper Midwest, I relish an opportunity to get in a ski binding. Skiing (on water or snow) was a cornerstone of my upbringing. 

My mom was dead set on making sure I was a confident all season skier. My days started on a boat platform in the middle of the lake, neon wetsuit on, fingerless gloves Velcro-ed, oversized hand-me-down life jacket clipped, and ski bindings tightened while my mom singsonged “One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to GO!!”

Elin and her gal pals in the gondola

Skiing gave me confidence and provided me the opportunity to meet new people and go to places far from where I grew up.

One of my favorite annual events is a Galentines ski weekend in Vail with a girl gang I’ve grown up with – all bonded by our love of skiing and getting outside. 

I always felt strongest in ski bindings–water or snow. I was untouchable. I was independent. I was in control. 

Until my binding betrayed me last April. 

So far it was a successful 2021 season. I had many trips out west to northern Arizona, Wyoming, Idaho and Colorado under my belt. A final spring ski trip to Snowmass with my older brother and some friends seemed like a great way to top it off.

We waited until midday for the spring snow to loosen up after freezing overnight. We took a few icy runs, then decided to cut through the resort to look for something softer.

On the race down to the bottom of the chair lift, I found the slush. 

A bumpy ride down in a ski patrol sled soon followed, I lay face up embarrassed as chairlift riders watched me go by. “You need to get to Aspen Valley hospital right away” the doctor on call reported after reviewing my x-rays. 

Elin’s POV day of surgery. The future looked bleak.

Upon further review from the foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon, I was screwed. Literally. I needed reconstructive surgery and a few screws. I suffered a complex spiral fracture breaking my leg and ankle in various places and obliterating my tendons and ligaments. My first question to the surgeon was: “will I ever be able to ski again?” 

My confidence was shot. I put a lot of my self-worth in the ability to move, to do, and to be independent. I was slated to be on crutches for a few months. Things got dark. Frustration mounted. I shouted at staircases. Snapped at my supportive care team. And grumbled at grandmas who took the handicap parking places.

With physical therapy 3x a week, my confidence slowly crept up as I regained my range of motion. Steadily, I began placing my foot down, mimicking a step, and walking with assistance. Soon I was ready to leave the crutches behind as I prepared to spend a bachelorette weekend in the woods celebrating my oldest and dearest friend (& Hoohah founder)!

8 1/2 months post-surgery – just a few days ago – I decided it was time to rip off the band-aid and get back in bindings. My anxiety weighed heavy as I buckled my boots and the flashback of my fall hit me. I really didn’t want to end my day looking up at another chair lift of concerned skiers and snowboarders. I considered bailing and blaming it on an effort to beat the I-70 ski traffic back to Denver before carrying my skis to the gondola.

With a fresh tune-up, fresh groomers, and the encouragement of friends who reminded me the first rule of skiing is to believe in yourself, I nailed my first run.

Elin's first day back skiing a blue run on a bluebird day.

I still have a long way to go. Stairs are met with hesitancy and the hope there might be a hand railing. Every step I take throughout the day coincides with a now familiar dulled pain. All that said, I’m excited to master some moguls, après, and move my Hoohah more in 2022. 


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