Skiing from the Sickbed

Monday Jan. 31st, 2011

“Telling me how great your ski day was does not make me feel better. I am not skiing vicariously through you,” my neighbor, avid skier and part time ski patroller, reflected when her season last year was cut short due to a broken arm. She was in my living room checking on me after I just had my gall bladder removed. My season had been shorted extensively due to my illness and recovery. I watched her for two months drive past my house to hit the slopes everyday of the week. She decided to get a pass at Bridger Bowl this year to get more skiing in due to her stunted Big Sky season last year. When I asked her how skiing had been, and she knew from her experience, I didn’t really want to know.

I have lived a 9 to 5 lifestyle for most of my existence and always worked for the weekends. Last year I had the fortunate experience, or unfortunate experience thanks to the lousy economy, to be working on my own. This could be the only time in my life that I will be free to ski during the week. I now had the chance to ski with the few and the lucky that don’t have to go on Saturday! Only a crown could identify this royalty and that was in the form of the midweek ski pass.

It snowed September 30 and I got my midweek pass on October 15. I was counting the days and envisioning my new lifestyle of office work in the morning and snowy turns in the afternoon. The week before lifts opened I folded over in tears after a dinner and it got progressively worse. Seven doctor visits and nine weeks later, it was determined I had a pissed-off gall bladder. The cure, surgery; it must come out if I am ever to enjoy my basic food groups of butter, cheese and beer. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t live on a diet of junk or fast food. However, I enjoy food and cooking and make it a practice to cook with wine, butter, and cheese. I begged the physicians to please find a surgery spot as soon as possible… tomorrow?  Please?  It would be weeks before I could ski and I have already been out of commission for the past month. Not to mention, eating during the holidays is rather hindered if you cannot consume most decadent ingredients. Much to my chagrin, surgery wouldn’t be scheduled until after the New Year…too many Christmas parties and doctors who ski (I don’t blame them).

My physical predicament was this; I couldn’t eat, drink, or move at a grandpa’s shuffle without cuddling a bottle of Vicodin. Even if I ate celery sticks, the slightest jiggle made me want to lay down in fetal position and moan. One week before surgery I finally received some advice; some people find they can exercise if they have not eaten for about 4 hours. Eureka!  I have an untouched glossy ski pass, it just snowed 2 feet, and I have week before I am sliced open like one of Mario Batali’s suckling pigs – I must get some turns in even if it requires that I starve.

It was a blue bird day though darn cold. I planned accordingly and did not eat. It was 10 below zero in town and forecasted to warm up to 5 by noon. I decided I would plan on getting to the mountain around noon hoping for the few degree increase in temperature. I usually consume some calories by this time and my stomach was already at a fierce grumble when I left the house. One of my few days to ski and I am going to either pass out from hunger, cramp over with birthing-like pains, or freeze my rear off. I was going for it.

I arrived and it was a balmy zero degrees and snowing. I was immediately greeted by the familiar smell I have longed for, for months, of clean mountain air and burgers on a grill. The smell confirms it, I am hungry. I eagerly made my way to lift and flashed my badge with a combined feeling of pretty cool right now and I am so happy to be here grin. The lift operator didn’t scan it. I got the wave through. But PLEASE, I wanted it to be scanned. I wanted the validation that if I only ski once this season, that this is a $400 day. I accepted the, “It’s cool, go on through” wave.

Alone on the lift; for the first time in weeks I felt healthy and momentarily healed. Snot froze to my gaiter before I sat on a chair but the sun was out and I could see the cold smoke blowing off the ridge. The rumble of the chair caused only minor discomfort and I was happy, really happy. My first run was beautiful. There were about 3 new inches that I gracefully made my own marks. Mid week skiing rules!  I can’t wait to tear it up all afternoon.

The ride up the south bowl on my second run was shaded and cold. I started to ponder what I should have for lunch. Man, this is a slow lift. Grilled cheese and soup sounds good. Those burgers sure smelled naughty. Usually at this time I am looking at the bowl planning my run. But now I start thinking about food, what to have, where to get it, and what can I get the fastest.  My mind and cravings had taken over. I could not concentrate on skiing. I was no longer interested. I was so hungry; I couldn’t even ski through it. What was wrong with me?  I was no longer feeling healed.

Two runs; that was my big day with my big, “I am so cool”, pass. I had to leave and eat.  I was pleased I rallied to go at all, but also terribly disappointed in my situation that I couldn’t ski more. Is it wrong to look forward to surgery?

Two weeks later and one week into my recovery, I saw my neighbor drive past my house with her skis loaded on her truck. I could see her smiling behind the wheel. I knew that smile, pure enthusiasm for some mountain time. I knew I had only had 3 weeks and then, I too can wear that “snow” eating grin. I later called her to ask how it was and she humored me by saying, “Eh, not so great,” which was a much appreciated lie.