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Tag: skiing

Warren Miller

here’s to warren miller (r.i.p.)

Warren Miller died yesterday at the age of 93. To any alpine skier, his name brings to mind images of gorgeous alpine vistas, with good looking skiers performing extreme feats of derring do – or neophyte skiers battling their equipment as they crash getting off the chairlift.

I was still fairly new to skiing in 1985 when my dad took me to my first Warren Miller movie, Steep and Deep. Back then, Miller still did his movies as a roadshow, taking them from town to town and narrating them live at the theatre. His delivery was warm and funny, with a slightly deadpan approach to the zinger lines.

I left the movie completely sold on becoming a better skier. The movie featured a mix of big mountain skiing, local mountain humor, and some awesome ski racing footage. With immersive visuals and Miller’s narration and humor, I thought to myself, “this is a sport I really want to do – and do well!” By this point in my youth, I was considering entering the world of alpine ski racing, and seeing some of the best skiers of the day (especially the U.S. hero of the Sarajevo Olympics, Phil Mahre) racing gates on a gigantic screen at Highland High School in Salt Lake City sealed the deal.

Sure, there were some things I wasn’t going to try – like telemark mogul competitions:

And while I really loved seeing the powder skiing at Snowbird, I wasn’t about to do a full gainer into the bottomless snow:

I’ve enjoyed Warren Miller films ever since. His older films still resonate today with the sheer beauty of the cinematography and the elegance of the retro fashions. Sure, the skiing may look different, but when the skier is the late, great Stein Eriksen, it’s never out of style:

Fortunately, one of Miller’s 1990s films, Black Diamond Rush, can be streamed for free as of this writing. Sure, ski films aren’t everyone’s cuppa, but this is a good example of the Miller formula: mix great skiers with great venues and see where the chips fall. Mix in humor, some occasional sidetracking, and some memorable quotes, and presto: your classic ski movie is made!

As Miller got older, he gradually handed over the film business to his sons, who in turn sold Warren Miller Entertainment to Time Inc., who in turn sold it to other investment groups. Miller’s narration slowly disappeared from the films, as well, replaced by the more au courant likes of Johnny Moseley. It’s not quite the same, yet it’s still the Miller formula at work.

2016’s Miller film, Here, There, and Everywhere, celebrated Miller’s 90th birthday by interviewing the man, himself, while asking current ski heroes what the Warren Miller films meant to them. It was, and is, a fitting tribute – and it’s available to stream from all the usual sources.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t share some of my favorite “Millerisms” that will always make me smile.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try again. If it still doesn’t work out, failure may be your thing.”

“If you don’t have any idea where you’re going, you’ll probably end up there.”

“Adventure is the invitation to common people to become uncommon.”

“Gravity is love and every turn is a leap of faith.”

“You can’t get hurt skiing unless you fall.”

“If you don’t do it this year, you’ll just be one year older when you do.”

“Don’t take life seriously, because you won’t come out of it alive.”

And then there’s this passage (from Miller’s autobiography, Freedom Found: My Life Story), which hits home with me because I can still clearly remember the first time I skied in 1981, age 7, at Parley’s Summit Ski Area:

If I ask any­body who learned to ski after the age of five, they can remem­ber their first day of skiing – what the weather was like, who they went with, what they had for lunch. I believe that’s because that first day on skis was the first day of total free­dom in their life.

So thank you, Warren Miller, for lighting a fire in this Utah boy. It’s taken me on some incredible journeys, and continues to do so.

 

#projectfemur: my hip is now missing a couple of bits… for the better

My hip/femur is now a few grams lighter. There’s less pain and more mobility. #projectfemur – for now – feels quite a bit better.

Sixteen days ago, Dr. Faucett removed some of the hardware from my January 2014 reconstructive surgery. As I wrote about in my previous post, the screws that bound my femoral head to the rod that aligned my broken femur had made their way into my hip capsule, playing bundles of nerves like a guitar pick on a string.

It was painful, to say the least. Standing up, sitting down, lifting my leg, walking, running, skiing – it all hurt. In the weeks leading into this most recent surgery, even riding my bike was painful. The nerves were so aggravated on a ride one week prior to my surgery that my entire right leg went numb, and I had to ride 25 miles back to DC more-or-less on one leg’s worth of power.

No more screws

Look ma: no more screws!

The surgery was a laparoscopic procedure, minimally invasive. One screw came out without a hitch, while the other brought a bit of dead bone with it on the way out so I wasn’t able to keep it. There was a ton of post-operative swelling: laparoscopy requires a lot of fluid to be flushed through the working area to provide a view for the camera, so the incisions drained for the better part of 30 hours. It was painful at first, and awkward.

But the pain soon subsided (I was off of the opioids within a couple of days, save for a few nights’ worth to aid sleep comfort during the heat wave), the swelling went down, and mobility returned to my leg rather quickly. I’m on a prescription NSAID (Celebrex, FWIW) that’s keeping any latent pain in check, but there isn’t a lot of pain to be found. I was cleared to bear full weight on the leg from the get-go, and graduated from two crutches to one within a week.

So things are better, much better.

However, the nerve pain being greatly reduced shows me how much biomechanical compensation I’ve introduced into my walking over the past year. My right hip flexor, gluteus, adductors, and hamstrings are very weak, and my right abductor is smaller than its left counterpart. In fact, my upper leg is one inch smaller in diameter than the left, and both legs are very lean right now. Below the knee, things are just about equal.

Two legs, two sizes

My legs as of August 31, 2016: one is smaller than the other…

So I know what work I need to do in the next two months: get the right leg back into shape and try to get back some of the flexibility it had before necrosis set in. I know not to expect 100 percent pre-injury mobility, and that even 100 percent pre-injury strength is tough given the femur is still eroding. But getting things into shape, and closer to equilibrium, is key, whether I’m heading into a full ski season this winter or a total hip replacement just after Halloween (the timeline depends on how pain levels even out over the next 4-6 weeks, but I’m optimistic).

Dr. Faucett says it’s now entirely my own timeline to write, and I have a prescription for physical therapy to help along the problem areas. The muscles are already saying “thank you” to me in anticipation.

I’ll be researching orthopedists to do my total hip replacement. I have two primary parameters: the orthopedist must be well versed in revisions of previous hip replacements (i.e. compensating for already-compromised and rebuilt joints), and must be good at rebuilding the hips of impact sport athletes. I will leave no stone unturned in finding the right surgeon and the right replacement hardware for my needs.

Until then, I’m back on the bike, starting tonight at the penultimate “Downtown Breakaway” for the year. It’s a ride I organize every year, and I’ve missed the last two weeks due to the surgery. While I won’t be at 100 percent, it’ll be good to be back out there on two wheels with my friends.

Stay tuned…

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