huge thanks to everyone who’s given advice and shared their stories, I did not expect such detailed responses. This shit is super inspirational. I figured I should give some background on my skiing and injury.
My family’s from Mexico and I grew up in Kentucky so I didn’t ski til 4th grade at Perfect North slopes in Indiana. I went a few times after that but didn’t really ski much til high school when my friends dad took us to a tgr premiere. Just based on movies and my ski friends, I ended up super interested in all mtb/big mtn skiing. I would straight air the big jumps once in a while but otherwise did very minimal park skiing.
My first year of college, I walked onto the diving team but it was a huge commitment so I quit once I built the confidence to flip on skis. After a few backies, I hit my head on a front flip and stopped doing flips for a season. I was doing some 3s still but mostly just trying to progress in all mtn. I was skiing mammoth mostly at this point so I had plenty of distractions from the park. this is what my carving looked like at that point:
Then last season my college ski club started a USCSA team and I was the only skier on the team to compete in slope. I’d never slid a rail before I signed up so I was pretty shit. my runs were some combination of sliding the rails to forward, mediocre 3s, backflips, and Lincoln’s. I was practicing on a homemade bike tube trampoline onto foam mats outside. Pretty much no style tbh (though I’m proud of the Cossack backie in my YouTube video) but I was having fun and the competition was mostly even worse so I got overconfident. overall it was a super reckless season and I walked away from some serious slams before I didn’t. Not just in the park but charging through trees etc. I hit a buried tree on highlands bowl and had to get stitches on my face.
To clarify some stuff about my neck, the doctors were pretty clear that my hardware healed up well and my chance of reinjury in the same spot is low. However, my spinal cord is scarred at the site of injury and I doubt I’ll ever feel 100% normal. Most gains happen after the first year of recovery and my understanding is that neurological recovery is asymptotic. Right now for example, when I punch forward, the motion is somewhat smooth but pulling my fist back is very jerky. Also, ive got very little muscle mass right now so my risk of general injury is definitely higher. I do think it’ll be much easier once I get back in shape. I used to be a pretty good track runner and I did a 100m dash just to see where I was at a while back- 15.8s lol.
I’ve definitely changed my definition of progression since the accident. The main thing I’ve been working on this season is shifties on side hits. That’s been really fun to work on cause I used to mostly throw cossacks. My days this season have been like 50% moguls/trees, 30% groomers and 20% park. I try to hit a rail every day I’m out- it makes the day a lot more satisfying. Plus they’re a lot less scary- I slid a tube first day out this season and it took til now to go for a 3. My balance was less affected than my strength and coordination so I’ve done a few backslides and a semi-accidental front 2. My carving is honestly about as good as before when conditions are good, which is super hype.
I bought a 10pack of tickets to the local tramp park where I work on jibs, small spins between the trampolines, grabs, and just hucking myself into the foam pit for fun. In terms of working on style, it’s been super frustrating bc my hands are the most affected so grabs are much harder, especially with poles. Plus with how jerky my motion is it’s hard to look good. Which is too bad but I guess it doesn’t matter all that much bc at this point I’m doing it for my own enjoyment. Also, I still can’t nose butter. Fuck me lol
My risk philosophy has also changed, but I have trouble sticking to it sometimes. I took the mental aspect of the injury pretty well because I always kinda knew this was a risk and I’d rather have pursued my dreams than played it safe. I felt like the point of being able bodied was skiing, mtn biking, etc. and that’s how I justified the risks. After being faced with the prospect of permanent quadriplegia immediately after the accident, this mindset really changed. In response to “why waste it being cautious?” I’d ask “why waste it being risky?” I got a ridiculously lucky second chance and I’m gonna use it but I know I don’t have nine lives.
I wear a back protector now (love it) and a GS helmet (hate it, but I saw too many brain injuries in the hospital). I’ve definitely taken it easier this year than normal, and if I’m not feeling uneasy about something I don’t go for it. However, I’ve found myself skiing steep moguls/trees while tired with fast friends and it’s a bit sketch. I’ve dropped a handful of small/medium cliffs at Sugarbush and Sugarloaf this season and that’s been hit or miss in terms of washing out. I also really need longer twin tips but have been putting off buying new ones. So I haven’t been perfect but I’ve avoided any slams besides hitting a tube and tweaking my oblique.
In terms of goals, I don’t have too much set in stone. I wanna ski Tuck’s this spring, and I want to slowly create/expand my bag of tricks as I get stronger and practice on tramps and pvc. But I’m really not going to be able to assess my potential until I’ve actually gotten in shape- so that’s really the main goal. Can’t wait to get a vaccine and hit an actual gym. Maybe later on I can find an airbag/water ramp to see how a Lincoln or backie feels. If anyone has ideas on where to go, please hmu. But I think it would be a one time thing just to feel it once more after a lot of practice. 2 offs are really the trick I wanna get down consistently- I think I wouldn’t feel a desire to progress much from there.
Anyways thanks for the wide range of advice and experiences, it’s given me a lot to think about.