16th February 2022 | Jane Peel, Aosta Valley, Italy
Last modified on February 19th, 2022
PlanetSKI’s Chief Reporter, Jane Peel, had not set foot on snow in more than two years following a knee injury and Covid disruption. She’s just put that right.
It was never my intention to wait this long after a serious knee injury for my first turns back on snow.
In fact, I can’t remember how many years it’s been since I went 26 whole months without stepping into my bindings.
Rupturing my anterior cruciate ligament in my right knee on the first (and last) day of my season in December 2019 put paid to a planned long and busy winter reporting from the mountains for PlanetSKI.
Ruptured ACL, December 2019 – photo © PlanetSKI
One year later it was the Covid-19 pandemic that stopped me hitting the slopes for the entire 2020-21 season.
I had planned a short trip to France in December 2021 – a couple of days would be a good test of my recovery.
That went down the pan too.
New testing requirements meant I couldn’t risk getting stuck in France over the Christmas period if I’d had the misfortune to test positive before my return.
I bailed out.
My decision turned out to be academic – the French decided they didn’t want any of us from the UK visiting them, in any case.
With the Omicron variant spreading fast and the skiing nations imposing a bewildering variety of rules that we attempted to explain here on PlanetSKI, I began to wonder whether my ski drought was set to continue for yet another season.
Then, Hallelujah, the rules slowly started to ease and it became financially and practically feasible to book a short trip to give the knee a workout.
I had already established that my custom-made carbon brace enabled me to enjoy my other ski passion – on water.
Slalom water skiing in July 2020 – photo © Ian Bennell
Would I feel as comfortable wearing it with my ski boots?
I had tried it at home, but now it was time to find out for real in the Valle d’Aosta in the Italian Alps.
Testing out the Ossur CTI Carbon knee brace with ski boots at home- photo © PlanetSKI
The bonus of choosing this location (or is it a penalty?) is that I get to ski with the boss, the esteemed editor of PlanetSKI, James Cove, for only the second time in our long acquaintance.
This season James has based himself in the ancient city of Aosta since early January.
And so, on day one, we head up to the city’s closest ski area, Pila.
Me the boss in Pila – photo © PlanetSKI
I’m smiling but behind the smile there’s a little apprehension.
I chose not to have the operation to replace my ACL as I’ve worked hard to strengthen the leg muscles and have been able to do everything I want with no instability.
I won’t know if that was a misjudgment until I find out if I can ski to the level I want.
It’s the moment of truth.
Ready to go – photo © PlanetSKI
I give myself a silent talking to: “ski just as you would normally and don’t be defensive”.
Easier said than done after the injury and such a long break.
But my sub-conscious is clearly listening.
It is aided by some slightly less stiff piste skis than I would usually choose and a lower din setting on my bindings, as recommended by my physio.
And the sun is out.
It’s by no means perfect but, wow, does it feel good to be doing this again…
Pila might just be my new favourite ski area as I’ll remember it as the place where I had my skiing re-initiation.
Yes, I’m only blasting around on blue and red pistes in decent condition for now (and almost – but not quite – keeping up with the boss).
But it doesn’t take long for me to remember why I love this sport and how much I’ve missed it.
First day on skis in 26 months – photo © PlanetSKI
Next up is La Thuile, about 40 minutes drive from Aosta.
Even the howling gale at the top, the light snow appearing to fall horizontally straight at us and the low visibility doesn’t deter me.
Bleak in La Thuile – photo © PlanetSKI
Well, I admit, it slows me down a bit as I decide caution is sensible.
After a couple of brief stops, first for some of the best hot chocolate I’ve ever drunk, and then for the some of the best minestrone soup I’ve ever eaten, the weather improves.
Minestrone in La Thuile – photo © PlanetSKI
It doesn’t take long before Cove is leading me down the steep black runs to the resort.
Tackling the blacks in La Thuile, Aosta Valley photo © PlanetSKI
I genuinely never thought I would be doing this on day two after my 26 months of snow famine.
I’m not sure. We’ll see what the weather’s doing.
Maybe Cervinia, maybe Courmayeur, maybe back to La Thuile to ski over the border to La Rosiere in France.
I’m back skiing and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s all the matters.
Where next on the Aosta tour? – photo © PlanetSKI