Skiing with Fibromyalgia (Oh, My Knees!)

My final dispatch from January’s trip to Jasper, Alberta, high in the Canadian Rockies. As I watch the rain mixed with snow turn my neighborhood into a slick mess, I long for the deep cold and fresh powder of Jasper.

Enjoy! Photos to come later…..

One activity I assumed fibromyalgia had forever eliminated for me was skiing. Too hard on the knees and joints, too exhausting for a body already living with chronic fatigue. Not that I was an avid skier before fibro. I only went a couple times with friends and never really learned how to ski well. A shame really, growing up so close to Mt. Hood.

The last couple years, as I’ve slowly explored what physical activities I can and cannot handle, my body a bruised and battered guinea pig (hiking good, horseback riding and kayaking bad), I’ve contemplated giving skiing another go. I just never had the guts to try it beyond the wishful thinking of how wonderful it would feel to fly once more down the mountain.

My weekend in Jasper has been a chance to face my doubts and the mountain once more.

This morning, well before the blue curtain of dawn, I hopped the shuttle up to Marmot Basin, the ski resort in the Canadian Rockies of Jasper National Park. This is a day-only ski mountain, multiple lifts soaring high up to the rugged summit, boasting a wide spectrum of bunny hills to double black diamond plunges. A simple lodge overlooks a vista of never-ending mountains and the base swarms with families, young couples, daredevil snowboarders, and expert instructors donning bright red coats. The lifts shut down at 4pm, the last shuttle leaves at 5:45pm, and by dinnertime, everyone is back in Jasper. It is laidback and no-nonsense. No flash. No egos. No pricey chalets. Just my style. A ski resort for the pure thrill of the powder at affordable prices.

Perfect for getting back on a pair of skis after a decade.

I wanted to ease in, so I signed up for a group lesson, tailored specifically for adults who’ve skied once or twice before. “Group lesson” turned out to be a misnomer, as it was just two of us and our instructor, an affable gentleman spending his retirement teaching others to ski. He focused on our control of edges and our turns, patiently taking us step by step as we layered on each element. Recovering from an embarrassing fall as I got off the lift (it has to happen once, right?), I dived into the drills, laughing off any wobbles or spills, savoring the inescapable fact that hit me almost to tears as I sailed down the slope.

I am skiing. With fibromyalgia. And it’s more exhilarating than I even remember.

Inevitably, of course, fibro has the last say. After four hours on skis, my knees complained too loudly to ignore. My legs began to lose control on turns, becoming heavier and heavier. My body was exhausted.

I checked my watch. Only 2:00pm. So much of the afternoon left to ski! To stop now would be a waste of my lift ticket and rentals, right?

No. I squashed that right away. I had hit my wall. I was done for the day.

As I bounced back down the mountain on the school bus shuttle, I became teary again. Maybe it was just the sheer exhaustion. I do get over emotional when I’m tired. But I think it’s what today represents. I faced another demon, another hurdle, another marker of all I have lost with fibro.

Faced it and flew, with the powder in my face and a wilderness of unforgiving mountains beyond.

Now I’m off to soak my battered muscles in the hotel hot tub. There’s always a price to insolence!


About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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One Response to Skiing with Fibromyalgia (Oh, My Knees!)

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