East Fremantle is a long way from snow, but its distance doesn’t stop GP Hilary Fine from hitting the ski slopes around the world.
I have a passion for skiing. As a schoolgirl I was picked last for every team and knew very early on that sport was never going to be a career choice. At the age of 14, courtesy of my best friend’s father who started a School Travel business in the UK, I discovered that I could move quite nicely on snow.
I cut my first snow plough at an Austrian ski school and ‘bend zee neeze’ still echoes in my brain. Hot lunches of Goulash Soupe and après ski with 14-year-old boys and I was hooked!
During my university years I progressed (or should I say, regressed) to the French, Italian and Spanish Alps, the actual location dependent on available funding. With that in mind, my parents declared me financially independent when I graduated in 1983. And after that ski holidays in Europe took a bit of a fall, so to speak.
Australia, and more specifically Western Australia, is a long way from the icy contours of land so necessary for my beloved sport. But where there’s a will there’s a way. I ventured to the moguls of Australia and persevered for a few years in the land of extremes. Too much snow – stranded for three days in Mount Hotham; too little snow – rediscovered the delights of Scrabble at Perisher Blue and then ice, wind, rain and sun all in the space of one day at Falls Creek. So, in 2009 I pulled the pin on patriotism and discovered Japan.
The exhilarating mood-high of powder snow was mirrored in reverse extremis by my first major ski injury. Six weeks after hobbling around and being as painful as only the families of other injured medicos would know, I reluctantly succumbed to the experts – in a roundabout way.
My medial collateral ligament was in tatters
I was attending a sports radiology education session when I gladly volunteered my knee for an ultra-sound demonstration. Eerie silence ensued. My medial collateral ligament was in tatters. A second-degree tear and a MRI confirmed the rest – a complete tear of the anterior cruciate and partial meniscal tear. I was in shock. And I reminded myself that immediately after the injury I’d skied down the offending slope.No skidoo ride for this over-aged ski bunny! I’d also limped around the temples of Kyoto before sitting completely imprisoned in economy class between two breast-feeding mothers on the way back to Perth. Denial is a well-practised art.
Physiotherapy, determination and a wonderful orthopaedic surgeon’s advice (references on request) got me back on the slopes of Japan with a renewed sense of excitement. As for ski gear, I added three important items. A substantial knee brace, a helmet and an avalanche-detectable ski jacket. I freely admit that I felt somewhat more vulnerable after the accident.
Now, all this may lure you into believing I’m an expert skier. After all, who else would they get to write this article? The truth is I’m not. These days, I can still get down most slopes but with an ever-decreasing degree of finesse and/or speed. I attempted a day of snow-cat skiing with people half my age in Canada and filed the experience under ‘Personal Growth and Physical Exhaustion’.
I ski because I adore the incredible brain-emptying high of gliding down mountains, avoiding confrontation with a tree or a snow boarder in search of powder snow, and the exhilarating feeling of floating on powdery white. Reaching the end of another wonderful day, taking off the skis, icicle dripping from the end of my nose, foggy goggles and shaky legs that take me just far enough for après ski drinks with friends and stories of the day’s delights.