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  • Writer's pictureDavid A. Van Wie

New Knees Are Making Turns Again

Skiing at Killington with Cheryl & Garrett on Christmas Day.

When I was an instructor in the Dartmouth ski school as an undergraduate, I used to teach students that "skiing is 90% knees." Quiet upper body, arms in control, make the knees do all the work. True enough, as long as your knees hold up.

A few years after graduation, I worked for the US Forest Service in Cody, Wyoming and got a weekend gig teaching at Red Lodge Mountain just across the border in Montana. It was there that I tried my hand at racing, but tore up my knee in a bad twisting crash. Racing wasn’t my thing, apparently. And that was the beginning of the end of my downhill skiing.

My knees continued to go downhill (haha) and I skied less and less. I found that playing men's league hockey was easier on my knees than skiing. I taught my kids to ski, but we opted to become a hockey family rather than a ski family, partly because skiing wasn't so fun for me anymore.

Ten years ago, my left knee - the original casualty - was so bad I had it replaced. All went well and I was soon back to biking, nordic skiing and even playing morning pickup hockey again. It took me a few years before getting up the guts to try downhill skiing again. I finally tried it when we came to the Dartmouth Skiway to watch our friend's son race in the Winter Carnival. I was surprised at how easy it was to get my ski legs back.

But the right knee wasn’t so great, so my skiing was very subdued and I'd limp for several days afterward. With all that mileage, the right knee continued to get worse until last July when I finally got that one replaced. Now I have a matched set of Vibranium knees! After five months of intense rehab, I was able to downhill ski again in December with no pain in my “young”-again knees. What a feeling to have skiing super-powers again! Cheryl, Garrett and I even skied Killington at Christmas.

From the top of Worden's Shuss on Holts Ledge looking across to Winslow.

Lyme is a tiny ski town with Dartmouth Skiway just 10 minutes from our house. The Skiway has two chairlifts on two separate hills - Holts Ledge and Winslow Ledge with snowmaking on both sides and plenty of interesting terrain. The mountain is not big (968 feet of vertical) but just perfect for me. A season ticket at the Skiway allows me to hop in the car to make some smooth turns for four or five runs and get back home in 90 minutes. Working at home has its advantages!

Trail signs in the beautiful McLane Family Lodge.

We also have some great, groomed Nordic skiing trails in town, so sometimes we have a hard time deciding whether to go with the short boards or skinny skis. Autumn loves to join me on the Nordic trails, which is a great way to tire out an energetic pup.

It’s fun to see the students at the Skiway forty some years after my tenure as an instructor. A bus runs from campus several times a day and students can still take lessons for PE credit. I also enjoy seeing the local kids in the Ford Sayre Ski Program for which I was an instructor many, many years ago.

I’ll be on the mountain again this weekend cheering on the racers at the 110th Dartmouth Winter Carnival. Go Green! Thinks snow!

The racers were training for the big Carnival weekend coming up. Hopefully the snow will hold up.

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