HOW TO START AND END A SKI SEASON IN 2 HOURS
7th December 2019 | Jane Peel, Les Menuires
Last modified on January 6th, 2020
Day One of my winter: Opening Day at Les Menuires in Les3Vallees. The sun’s out, the snow’s good. What could possibly go wrong?
I had been looking forward to this moment since I put my skis away last Spring.
I love skiing.
I live for skiing.
It is my winter passion.
But less than two hours after setting out on my opening day of the season I hurtled to the ground, legs akimbo.
It’s not as if I was doing anything extreme.
It was a straightforward schuss on a red run.
I hit a lump of soft snow, caught an edge and that was it.
My skis came off but not before my right knee had bent in a way that it wasn’t designed to do.
I knew immediately it probably wasn’t good, but I was hoping it might be just a sprain.
A bit of swelling and bruising, a couple of days rest and, bingo, back on skis.
Maybe I would even be able to ski down at a gentle pace?
Slowly, I stood up, careful to put only a tiny bit of weight on the right leg.
So far so good.
Then, without warning, my right knee collapsed inwards and I fell to my backside.
I’ve done my ACL, I thought.
Time to call the two people I was skiing with, who were ahead of me.
Cue a call out to the piste patrol.
I’m Freddie’s first patient of the winter.
Great. Do I get a prize?
Many of you will know exactly what an ACL is.
A damaged anterior cruciate ligament is one of the classic skier’s injuries.
It happens to the very best skiers: alpine racers, freestylers.
Even to PlanetSKI’s esteemed editor, James Cove.
His broke cleanly while he was on an end-of-season BASI course some 15 years ago, just as he was about to pass his ski instructor’s exam.
And he didn’t even fall over.
He had to do the whole instructor’s course all over again the next winter.
In the meantime, back on the mountain in what turns out to be Meribel (as we’ve skied over to another of Les3Vallees), I am getting my first ever lift on a ‘blood wagon’.
I comfort myself on the ride – which also involves an uphill section where I am towed by a skidoo – that in all my years skiing I have never before had a serious injury.
I’ve been lucky.
At the medical centre in Meribel-Mottaret, a friendly doctor named Jean-René Mabboux takes a series of x-rays to check I’ve not broken anything.
“Good news,” he says. “There’s no need for you to go the hospital and have emergency surgery.”
There’s going to be a ‘but’.
There’s definitely going to be a ‘but’.
It comes after he’s done the very simple ‘ACL test’ which involves clasping both his hands around knee and moving it up and down.
He does it on my good knee first and then the bad one.
Whoa… I can see there is nothing supporting the front of my right knee.
Here’s the ‘but’.
“You have ruptured your ACL. You have also damaged your medial ligament.
“You will need an MRI which you can do when you get home. You must go to your doctor and get an appointment with an orthopaedic consultant.”
What’s the prognosis, doc, I ask, not really wanting to hear the answer.
It depends on what they find and what remedial action is needed, he tells me.
Realistically, when will I ski again? I wonder this out loud.
Next season, the doctor says.
I didn’t really need him to tell me. I knew already.
All prospects of an exciting winter reporting all over the mountains for PlanetSKI gone in a puff of smoke.
Or rather an explosion of snow, skis, poles and right leg in Les3Vallees.
My winter was looking to be rather a good one.
Apart from my current visit to Les Menuires and Les3Vallees I was planning to ski in Tignes in a few days time.
In January it was to have been Ischgl in Austria, Val Gardena in Italy and maybe Borovets and Bansko in Bulgaria.
At the end of the month a visit to Nassfeld in Austria and Schladming for the World Cup night slalom.
Then there was February – Slovenia, Trysil in Norway and Salen in Sweden were on the cards.
And did I mention Colorado in the USA?
In March I had a planned visit to Avoriaz and Morzine in the Portes du Soleil and later in the season there was my usual trips to the Brits freestyle championships in Laax in Switzerland.
Now many people find it hard to believe that I haven’t actually skied with the PlanetSKI editor James Cove for almost a dozen years.
We are both out in the mountains for much of the winter but our paths never seem to cross.
This season he is going to be living in Aosta and we’d agreed that a long stay at the PlanetSKI alpine base was well overdue.
If it happens it looks like it could be a post-op recovery break.
I could go on.
Oh well, I expect the PlanetSKI stable of freelancers will have a decent winter.
I’ll need intensive rehab. Maybe surgery.
In the meantime I’m going to be struggling around in a massive knee brace and on crutches, at least until I get the MRI scan.
“Welcome to the ACL club,” James Cove says when I tell him what’s happened.
“The key thing is to do the rehab and physio and you’ll be skiing again before you know it.”
Just not this season.
The boss will be delighted I can still, at least, do this….
In the past broken bones used to the most common injury for skiers but now, with the development of higher and stiffer boots, the forces are transmitted to the knee.
Also the introduction of carving skis increases the likelihood as they turn more quickly.
For recreational snowsports up to 21% of all injuries are serious injuries to the knee’s Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL).
The ACL spans a gap within the knee that is between the tibia (shin bone) and the femur (thigh bone).
In skiing, the commonest mechanisms for an ACL injury are the ‘slow backward twisting fall’ and the ‘slip-catch’ manoeuvre (when the skier loses balance and the outside ski breaks away, but the skier quickly re-engages the edge into carving).
In both cases the binding tends not to release; your knee gets twisted and as your bottom drops below your knees, your hamstrings can no longer help stabilise your knee to save your ligaments.
There are further details on what you can do to lessen the likelihood of an ACL injury in this earlier article on PlanetSKi with advice from the specialist ski insurers, MPI Brokers:
Now I’m back from the medical centre I’d like to thank everyone who helped me:
- The three unknown people who stopped to check on me.
- The ESF ski instructor, Frank, and my partner, James, who were next on the scene and who both took the photos & video for this article.
- Estelle Roy in the Les Menuires tourist offfice and Les Menuires PR Vanessa Fisher.
- And everyone at Powder N Shine where I am staying in the fabulous Chalet Bramble in Reberty just above Les Menuires. They are owner Francesca, resort manager Chelsi, chef Andreas and host Katerina.
Thanks also to Intersport for the hire of the skis. Shame I didn’t get to use them for very long.
Powder N Shine offer 7 nights in Chalet Neve in Reberty, arriving 29th February 2020, for £925pp (travel not included).
The price includes breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner on 5 nights (canapés & apertif plus 4 courses with wines selected to match). All chalets have a Michelin-trained chef.
There is also availability for February half-term.
Mention PlanetSKI when booking for an extra something special!