GET OUT: Adventures on the Mend

By on February 9, 2016

What do you do when you’re laid up during ski season?

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – You either know of them or you’re one of them. When spotted from afar, one may cast a “that sucks” glance at the passerby with little to no empathy. For the ones that somehow fall victim either by luck or poor choices, mere glances do no justice to how difficult things really are for that person. Wondering what I’m talking about? Those things that occur in the action of a split-second decision and take months to heal: Injuries.

It’s hard to decide what to do when injured, as different injuries have different ways of manifesting the destiny of the user. Every individual is different in motivation or capacity to engage in getting out. Thus, I decided to talk to people and ask them what they actually do when they’re injured, and learned of activities that help in getting them through the process.

Screws assist a post-surgery broken ankle.

Screws assist a post-surgery broken ankle.


A lovely exterior view of said ankle.

1. Start a support group

There was talk of starting a support group for those who are newly post-knee surgery. When I inquired what would occur at these meetings, I was told anything besides discussing that place between the quad and the calf. Climbing wall workouts were noted to be a popular activity for this group, as they can be done with two hands and one leg. Yes, sadly there is still no climbing gym, but Teton Sports Club has a rotating wall of sorts known as a tread wall. In any case, the gathering of injured could be a nice means to continue socializing while perhaps meeting a new friend.

2. Hang out alone and write a song

When visiting my friend following meniscus surgery, I asked him what he had been doing for the past couple of weeks to pass the time. After surgery, he decided it might be best to focus on his inner self and develop some creativity. Let me preface this with the fact that he already knew how to play guitar, but he created a pretty neat new song that may or may not debut at the local Hootenanny. So yes, playing a song can help one find their inner self and enhance communal enjoyment when said person is ready to go public.

3. Move away and save money

Before the winter began, a dear friend shattered his ankle in a series of unfortunate events. After contemplating staying in town, struggling to pay rent, and watching his friends ski powder, he concluded it was best to simply remove himself from the situation entirely. This winter, he took a brief hiatus from Jackson, landing himself a cheap place to live and a job where he can work as much as he wants even while hobbling around. He also identified a new talent during his downtime of water coloring mountain landscapes.

When I inquired as to how he has incorporated exercise into his life given difficulty walking, this ingenious man explained that he installed a hang board at his workplace. After a few months of healing, he reports his upper body is in tiptop shape and walking is now a feasible option. He’s looking forward to taking his newly earned cash and moving back to Jackson, where he will gift his glorious drawings to dearly missed friends.

4. Think outside the box

For some, injury does not necessarily mean they’re not “getting out there.” They simply have to get out there differently. Those with broken ribs report they still ski, but are limited to powder. Unfortunately, resort skiing can be unpredictable and painful for these folks. With a little bit of work, however, earned turns generate happiness and freedom from the pains of skiing bumps all day.

One year, one of my skier friends broke his hand, leaving it completely and utterly useless for the remainder of the season. This touring enthusiast refused to surrender his time in the backcountry. Instead he skinned the remainder of the season with a whippet. Whippets are ski poles with an ice axe-like device attached to the top. Skinning one-handed is incredibly difficult, especially on steep skin tracks, but the whippet aided in grabbing onto trees and gaining purchase on slippery slopes. By the end of the season, he was a one-handed whippet expert.

Parting advice to the able-bodied

Friends of the injured: do not forget about your ski buddy. Even though they may not be able to get out with you, they still exist and they probably still miss you. For those unwilling to give up their precious daytime activities, many evening events are available to mingle with those who are hurt. From Elk Refuge sleigh rides to storytelling slams at The Rose, there exists no limit to exploring creative opportunities to hang out with those who have experienced the ever-limiting structure of the physical body. Besides, you never know, it could happen to you one day.

About Elizabeth Koutrelakos

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