Right, it's June, so why am I posting this now? Well, uh, I just got the photos back. In fact, I just got all my photos for the last two years developed. Sorry; I've been busy. Anyway...
My sweetie and I went cross-country skiing for the first time ever (for each of us!) this past March. It was something I had always wanted to do, something that it made me sad to think of never being able to do when I was still contemplating having my leg off. It was something my sweetie agreed to try as part of his continuing effort to make me happy.
As I've said, all the experts I talked to kept telling me that if I worked hard enough I should be able to do pretty much anything I wanted to after my amputation. And look, they were telling the truth. Here is a short series of photos of me fulfilling a lifelong dream -- even after transfemoral amputation!
We went to Great Brook, a state park which offers ridiculously cheap all-day rentals of all equipment -- skis, boots, and poles -- and an equally inexpensive all-day pass to many miles of beautiful groomed trails. (By the way, if for some reason you are not able to ski on your own power, Great Brook also offers free use of something called a "sit ski" and will even provide a volunteer guide to push it, so everyone can get the most out of this beautiful facility.) Because of my work schedule, we were unable to take the regularly scheduled afternoon group lesson before venturing out onto the trails, but the staff were very kind and did take a little time to show us the ropes at no extra charge.
As you can see, I did things a little differently than a typical skier in that I kept only my organic leg in the groomed track. This helped me adjust for the difference in height between the two legs, and it also helped me control my speed a little better this first time since the groomed track was far more slippery than the powder next to it.
Falling is not that big a deal. Snow is soft. Also, I found that when I fell it was a lot like many of the times I've fallen walking, where I just put my weight on my leg before I'd straightened it, which made me go down like a sack of rocks right onto my bent prosthetic knee. Of course, it's possible to fall other ways; I witnessed many side and back falls. However, I was very cautious this first time out and only fell twice, both times right into a kneeling position directly on my prosthetic knee, which landed on my ski.
I'm going to really need to build up my torso and arm strength before we go again because even though I'm ordinarily quite good at standing up from the ground using only one leg, I'm not so good at it when that leg is positioned on a very slippery surface. I'm thinking that telescoping ski poles (like the telescoping walking poles I suggested for helping walk at full length and then also helping to get up at a shorter length) might serve very well. It's an orangutan-like stretch of the arms to the top of ordinary ski poles from a kneeling position, and it's not really a good hoisting angle for a person of ordinary strength, especially when you cannot get firm footing.
The good news is that it's not necessarily terribly difficult to just pop the ski off your organic foot (if you still have one) and, using the stable footing you will achieve this way, just stand up normally, and then snap your boot back into the binding. Unlike downhill ski boots, cross-country ski boots attach only at the toe. If you can figure out a way to hold your ski still while applying great enough force to pop the toe back into the binding, you've pretty much got it made. (Sometimes you can accomplish this by clamping down on the ski hard with your poles.) However, this is not always easy, especially while you're balancing your weight on a prosthetic leg on a ski on slippery snow. Also, the rental skis and boots we used were pretty rough, probably inexpensive and designed to take lots of abuse, but not especially sensitive in the locking mechanism. I imagine there are other, slicker, smoother, easier to use set-ups available for purchase, but we did not have time to investigate before this last season ended. Next fall, we plan to look into this.
Cross-country skiing is a terrific workout. An hour and a half of it totally wore us out this first time we tried it. What better way to work off the winter poundage (two words: Christmas cookies) than to get out in the fresh air and cruise through the sugar-coated landscape. I had a beautiful experience that morning, a very fun adventure, and look forward eagerly to more like it.