Professional ski mountaineer, Kellie Okonek, tore her ACL last season. Fear, surgery and recovery has kept her off of her skis, but this season is different. Here is her story about a recent week in Revelstoke, British Columbia and how it changed her winter and her injured mindset.
It’s 3 p.m., sunset is at 4:20 p.m., and I think we can do another run. We’ll just do a quick climb, rip skins, and go. I have a headlamp for the out track if we need it. It’s day 15 on a new ACL and I’m in the famed ski mecca of Rogers Pass, reconnecting with a ski buddy I met last year in Japan just before I got hurt, and that burn, drive, and desire for one more tree-filled ski descent is back. I’m standing in the shadows of towering peaks, staring at ski lines to fill dreams, ready to make turns in the perfect snow.
I had long wanted to return to Revelstoke and explore the lauded Rogers Pass. My first visit was in 1998, when I was a resort-only skier taken cat skiing by my dad for my 18th birthday. I was amazed by deep powder and enraptured by the views of four mountain ranges. Fast-forwarding to 2014, I instead found myself full of fears and insecurities. I was worried that I wasn’t strong enough to ski because of my injury and that I’d become too disconnected from the sport.
But that wasn’t who I wanted to be. I wanted to be inspired and in love with everything about the mountains and confident about the exploration of a new area. And I wanted to love all of it – the challenges of learning new areas and new partners, and the personal transformation that comes from the mountains.
And all of those things lined up every day. On day one, we explored Revelstoke Mountain Resort with local telemarker Rory Camm and a crew of ripping Tahoe tele girls. They introduced me to the mountain’s pillow-lined tree skiing; my confidence grew. On day two, we headed to Rogers Pass. Laughing our way down 3,000 feet of perfect snow and fun terrain, I found myself whooping with joy as my skis floated their way down the mountain.
Later that week, we took off to local logging roads and accessed even more inspirational tree skiing. As a storm moved in, I was amazed at how powerful weather makes the mountains feel bigger, making my problems seem so insignificant.
It was a week of Revelstoke bliss. My favorite day was spent with Todd, the aforementioned friend I met in Japan last year. We ran into each other in the ski area parking lot, of all places, and reconnected for an epic tour on Roger’s Pass. It was on that day I let my skis run and carry speed, when I started really trusting my body again. It was a day of exploration, rewarded with amazing terrain, deep snow, and sore muscles.