Passing the Inspection: A Firsthand Report from Whitetail 5
By Jon Hsieh, Guest Columnist
Author Jon Hsieh takes a break while testing out his knee. Photo provided by M. Scott Smith.

No skiing this season, doctor’s orders.

It’s been nearly ten months since my little accident and nine months since ACL reconstruction surgery. Since then I’ve gone through 3 months of rehab and a summer of biking and running. Although I can do everything I used to do, I’ve lost a step or two. This is probably me just being extra cognizant of every little abnormal tweak of my surgically repaired knee.

A little surgery is not going to keep a snow sport enthusiast down! Activities that really stress side-to-side motion in the knees (like tennis and especially like skiing) basically are out until this spring. However, activities that only require forwards and backwards knee bending (like running, cycling, and conveniently snowboarding) are ok.

So, I’m back, but this season I’m reincarnated as a full-time snowboarder.

On Tuesday, December 20, 2005, DCSki’s Editor M. Scott Smith and my coworker Joey decided to play hooky and take a day out at Whitetail. It was an ideal day - a clear day in the high twenties, with little wind. By now all but two slopes, Fanciful (intermediate) and the Half Pipe (expert) were open.

This year’s first-run-of-the-season felt like the “getting-your-car-back-after-major-repairs” feeling. You know it’s supposed to work, but you’re not sure if you trust it because it just feels different. This time it was on my trusty old snowboard, attached with new bindings, new boots and my new knee. The first few runs kicked the tires and loosened any of the rust. They were big cautious S-curves down the mountain - testing out the knee and feeling out if there was any pain.

Steering works. Check.

Brakes work. Check.

The snow guns were blasting everywhere but their loud cacophony was eventually drowned out as I regained confidence in my legs. After a few runs I became relaxed and got back up to speed. I reencountered some of the feelings that make skiing and riding a sublime experience - the familiar roar of velocity in your ears, the ruddy cheeks from cold air, eyes watering from wind, and that sublime feeling of carving.

Accelerator works. Check.

Riding the Expert’s Choice lift on a beautiful midweek day. Photo provided by M. Scott Smith.

We decided to hit each slope starting from Snow Park and working our way over towards the right. Snow Dancer had a nice steep section with a little bit of crusty stuff on the edges. Limelight was the smoothest ride of the bunch. Although there was snowmaking everywhere it really affected the fun factor on the narrower expert side. While it made for excellent surface conditions on Farside and Exhibition, the blizzard conditions created by the snowmaking guns made these runs unpleasant. Because Bold Decision was in the shade, it was un-skiable without protective eyewear (which I conveniently left in the car).

Windshield wipers: missing. Need to be installed.

By the end of the day I was bombing runs “goofy foot” (right leg downhill) like I normally would. Later the in afternoon I started working on “regular foot” (left leg down hill) to stressing the “bad” knee more. Though not as confident, I was able to carve down the slopes.

Reverse works. Check.

There were a few runs we didn’t get to. Stalker is now a mini-terrain park on the bottom half of Snow Park (green). The terrain park on Angel Drop (blue) was good to go. Normally I would hit them a couple times but today, I took it easy. I’ll save that temptation for later in the season.

Shocks and struts. Need testing.

The sun sets on the last official day of Fall, right before the Winter Solstice. Photo provided by M. Scott Smith.

On the way back we stopped at The Brewer’s Alley in Frederick. Yummy, reasonably priced food and their own craft-brewed beers! Downtown Frederick is lit up for the holidays and home to many fine local restaurants, shops, and art galleries. Great for after skiing vittles.

Gas tank. Full.

Overall, I think I passed the major parts of the inspection and am ready for some serious riding this year. See you all on the slopes!

Photo provided by M. Scott Smith.
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About the Author

Jon Hsieh is an avid skier and snowboard rider. In his spare time he enjoys cycling, rock climbing, and running.

Reader Comments

Connie Lawn
December 22, 2005
Nice article, and great photos from both of you. I am glad you are back on the slopes.
What a terrific, beautiful ski area! Yours, Connie
December 22, 2005
Really enjoyed the article. Glad your knee is doing good.
John Sherwood
December 22, 2005
Jon's end of the season article last year put me in a bit of a funk, but I am pleased to see that he will get some boarding in this winter. Most people I know with ACL injuries have to miss a season so luck is with Jon. Don't push it. Protect that knee--your ticket to freedom.
Darth Caedes
December 23, 2005
Good to hear your back on the slopes. I would stay away from the terrain park this season though. It would be a bummer to mess up your knee again on to long after surgey. The park will be there next year.
Lauren Schade
January 1, 2006
Skiing after ACL reconstruction will never be the same as it was before. Ten years from now you'll still feel those little tweaks. But I think it makes you appreciate skiing even more....a fellow ACL survivor

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