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  • Writer's pictureAshley Farrar

Skiing with an mTBI

Getting back to skiing was nerve-wracking this year. My first time was with a ski instructor who I’ve skied with for many years… and after our initial hellos, I told him that I had no idea how it was going to go.

We started on the bunny hill so I could get a feel of what it would be like. After two runs there, we both felt confident to try something a bit more challenging. My instructor also decided that we’d chat technique for longer than we usually do to give more space between the runs.

As has been my experience with introducing anything again for the first time, it was a very odd experience. I felt shaky, an unusual feeling for me while skiing. It was so strange trying to judge my position in space - weird to not know if I was in the right place for the chair lift, and weirder to assess myself in relation to other skiers and snowboarders while we were all moving.

At first, it felt like everything was moving way too fast for me, but each run made that sensation less. Each day I ski I have some anxiety and some fun… but the balance is generally tipping more towards fun as time goes on. I’ve learned to expect that every day is a new experience since my mTBI, and this truth exists while skiing too - not every day on the hill is the same.

After my first couple of days skiing I had some symptoms afterwards, but nothing extreme. I set myself up for success by taking it easy leading up to skiing, making sure I have sunglasses for the car ride home, doing some gentle movement and meditation once home, and taking it easy the day after.

Jay Peak Resort, 2018

This past weekend was my fourth time skiing, and it threw a little hiccup my way. It was relatively warm, and because of the weather, they’d closed some runs and moved snow from those to the open runs. The snow was heavy and variable, which made it difficult for my brain to predict how I was moving. Unexpected bumps were difficult to adjust to as quickly as needed. I felt off balance and I was becoming symptomatic.

After 40 minutes (which is not as long as it sounds… it equalled about 10 minutes of actual skiing), I waved Eric to keep going, and I called it quits. I was starting to feel clumsy, my brain and body weren’t communicating well. I was disappointed, but I also knew it was wise.

While I waited for the kids to finish their lessons, I chatted with an old friend of mine while watching her kids in their second-ever lesson (so much fun to see their big grins at the end). She commented that it’s wonderful that I know my own limits, and at that moment I thought that, yes, this was a moment to celebrate. My disappointment vapourized and I turned my focus to enjoying this unexpected visit.

If you ask me how skiing is going, I’ll tell you it’s going wonderfully. I’m 10/10 satisfied with what’s happened so far. It’s up and down, just like all the things with my mTBI, just like life in general. I’m feeling happy, griefy, and proud.

With some reflection, I might tell you that it’s another learning experience that is giving me the opportunity to practice going with the flow. To remember that I am indeed, not in control of everything, and that if I allow myself to bend with the wind, I will build the strength I need to persevere.

Maybe my biggest lesson is that if I surround myself with the right people, it takes me far (even if that place is less far than where I’ve been before). Or, maybe it’s the reminder that a lot of joy can be found in just being in the moment with what is, even if what is, isn’t what I’d hope.

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