Knowing when to stop skiing and snowboarding to save yourself

woman crashing ski

I’m tired. Scratch that. Exhausted. So exhausted my bones are crying. Not just my bones either, I literally sobbed into a drip filter coffee at breakfast this morning (though to be fair most Australians sob when presented with filter coffee) and ate my own tears that fell on my eggs Benedict.

Tired and emotional and exhausted. That’s me. If I was a kid I’d just take a nap with a mug of warm milk and wake with sleet in my squishy eyes, my thumb in my mouth and a blankie in my spare hand. 

Travel can do that to you, exhaustion. Add work commitments while on the road and you can go from hero to zero in a millisecond. Though, I know to expect no sympathy from you, dear reader, as work for me sometimes involves days of skiing powder and that brings yet a whole other level of physical fatigue and lack of sympathy. 

Skiing and snowboarding when tired can be a recipe for disaster. It is, in these moments, important not just to listen to your body but to respect it. When it’s time to go in, it’s time to go in.

But so many of us don’t listen, fight through, fuel our egos or bend to peer pressure or are driven by a desire for vertical. Then we finish our holidays in need of another one, or worse, in need of physical therapy for the injuries we sustained while not listening to our bodies.

On any given day, on any given hour, any or all of us can be a rockstar skier, in the zone, riding with the flow, making ourselves look good.

Then on any other day, on any other hour, we can be snow plowing down the hill like a beginner with dyslexic legs who go right when you ask them to go left. Skiing is like life, it ebbs and flows and few of us can be on point every hour or every day or every week of every month of every year. 

It is hard for our egos to accept. Mine, especially.

When I first took up skiing late in life I got a kick out of skiing with new folk who marveled at my ability to get myself down a hill with such, style, grace and panache, with such limited years on snow under my belt. At least that’s what I thought they marveled at, looking back at pics I realise it was my gaper gap, ski pants tucked into my boots and all sorts of Jerry paraphernalia.

Then time took it’s toll and age hit, then a flock of kilos shat upon my torso and stuck to my thighs, arse and middle and I found myself skiing with the equivalent of a small child upon my hips (despite being childless). Work got busy, the gym didn’t and fitness was the first sacrifice.

A two month altitude fitness training program pre season helped, but you’re not really ski fit until you ski. Add some niggling injuries and fear that crept in upon the slopes after a traumatic experience skiing with an instructor who fell and broke his neck and died in front of me and, well, let’s just say that some ski days are better than others.

Which is how I found myself kicking myself on the top of Taynton Bowl in Panorama in British Columbia with a level 4 ski instructor, a snow reporter and a long time local. Taynton Bowl is accessed via a cat and is 750 acres of backcountry style off piste terrain within the resort boundary.

It rocks. Steeper pitches, untouched snow, gladed trees, open bowls, whatever is your joy. I love this style of terrain, love it.

Only my legs didn’t love it that day and I caved.

While the three blokes ate the terrain for breakfast for my camera, I couldn’t link two turns together if I tried. My ego took a battering as I had already placed the Level 4 Canadian instructor on a pedestal (because, level 4) and had clearly left the other two unimpressed with my tragic off piste ski ability. On that day. 

I longed to show them footage of my younger, thinner, well rested self skiing like a goddess on similar (if not harder) terrain on my iPhone. But I didn’t. Because that would make me a wanker.

When we hit a patch of rotten snow, I caved again and started offering excuses, my pants were new and not yet broken in, my ski boots were packing out, my hair was in my eyes, my bra was undone, though really I just had panic rising as I feared injury in the crud. It was not my day and my thighs were far from my own, tired from heli skiing the day before (yes, I know, wanker, again). 

And there lies the problem. Every day is not your day, especially as age takes it’s toll. Some days are better than others and this day was not mine.

Ten days later after a week of skiing and another deep backcountry powder day (that I skied like a boss, again, hearsay) I attempted to cat ski with Big Red Cats at Red Mountain near Rossland. This time I was prepared. I knew my legs were shot, I knew I would hit a fatigue limit and I knew at that time I would need to sit out a run.

Five runs in and my legs were simply not taking direction, yet even with sitting out a run to give my legs time to recover I still struggled on the eleventh and last run of the day which featured tight trees, then an open glade then a narrower steeper chute and then an open bowl. I was already in the run when I realised my legs were rebelling.

So I chose to side slip the chute, knowing I’d get down safely and knowing if I had chosen to ski it that my legs may give way.

As a result of my ‘ski adulting’, I live to ski another day. A good day, a bad day, my day or not my day, but another day.

Sometimes you just need to give yourself a break, not care what others think and put that ego away, know when to stop and go in or end up broken and sobbing into your filter coffee.

READ MORE  No lift lines and 10 more surprises at Panorama ski resort

Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.

1 COMMENT

  1. Ripping TC on a date led to marital bliss.
    My friend Fly (bet you know him) could not go so I was the replacement. One of those crazy things that we knew each other but had never hooked up unless you count the the trout man story (maybe another time),. 50 cms fresh and blue bird. We ripped it up and gradually the possy grew larger and more fresh was had. Around 2 I was calling last run but the lovely lady said just one more! I agreed. 3/4 down that last run I was on my way to ski patrol. Lovley lady had broke a leg. The snow had turned and I was quietly happy as she was going to find it much harder to escape my affections. We now have to kids that love to rip the mtns.

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