It’s that special time of year when the conditions are almost good enough to hit all of your lines and you think that you’re strong enough to charge hard all day! And, yeah, you know that it’s not been the best snow year and you haven’t been able to really get into it yet - but you’re gonna go get ahead of yourself anyway!
Maybe it’s something small and insignificant like a back seat turn in an awkward crux. Maybe you land something switch just a little lazy. Or, in rare cases, you actually have bragging rights for your injury and you were doing something huge rather than neglectfully stupid. In whichever case, you hear the signature snap crackle and pop that usually means ACL, MCL, and meniscus gone!
Ah, a sad story, and one that repeats itself. As advanced as technology gets we skiers just can’t seem to keep our knees from exploding. I myself bid adieu to the major supportive structure of my left knee whilst skiing an endless winter in New-Zealand 3 years ago. It’s a pretty devastating blow at the time, but 2 1/2 years later I can confidently say that most anybody can recover from most any knee injury these days.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that it takes time and effort as well as some luck in the medical system. The next challenge is money. I’m willing to bet that the average ski bum doesn’t have insurance or the $1500 to $2000 laying around to pick up a brace when it’s time to start getting that shaky knee back on the snow. That was certainly my dilemma when, 4 months after surgery, I wanted to start skiing but couldn’t afford a mechanical knee.
Now, on the whole I would recommend staying off of the snow until your knee feels good enough that it doesn’t need a brace. The reality though, is that most people will use one to start anyway - for psychological purposes and to appease mom if for no other reason. So the burden of scratching together the coin to get back on your skis can be huge.
In my case, I spent a few days in my friend Todd’s basement with a grinder, drill, screwdriver, some locktite, some old snowboard bindings, and some Raichle ski boot parts. Yep, I built me a brace! Better than anything you can buy on the open market too.
People thought I was at least half-retarded to be risking my new knee in a non-medical homemade support device. But those people don’t understand the ingenuity and drive that comes to a person deprived of skiing. So, for those new to the club here's some inspiration for getting back on the snow. Check out the video for how to build your own knee brace!