Inspiration Is The First Step.

There’s a saying: If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch. I had to stay on the porch. My knees had quit, and I spent ski days mostly on the deck of the ski lodge while everybody else went skiing. I slathered on the sunscreen, drank hot chocolate and chatted with visitors. But I was bored. I wasn’t skiing.

Skiing wasn’t fun any more. I’d tried physical therapy, injections and finally an expensive custom made brace with pads, straps and a happy butterfly design all over it. Nothing helped. My knees balked at skiing. Even though I could bicycle, walk through the grocery store and climb stairs, my knees refused to ski. They reduced me to doing out of control wedge turns on easy slopes. I believed that my ski life was over. I was caught between non-skiing knees and the panicked feeling that I’d have learn to knit.

Ski Patroller Nancy Pitstick's comment started Harriet's journey Credit: Harriet Wallis
Ski Patroller Nancy Pitstick’s comment started Harriet’s journey
Credit: Harriet Wallis

Then Brighton Ski Patroller Nancy Pitstick entered my life. It was New Year’s Day. The sun was shining. The snow was perfect. But 20 minutes after the lifts opened, I was done for the day. One careening snowplow run was all I could do. I hung up my skis and headed for the deck.

“Happy New Year,” a voice said. “How’s your day going?”

I ignored the cheerful patroller.

“Guess you didn’t hear me,” she said. “How’s your day?”

She wouldn’t let me off the hook, so I poured out my knee frustration to her.

She listened carefully. Then she told me that she’d had both knees replaced. Right there in front of me was a healthy, active, vivacious patroller who was skiing and patrolling with two artificial knees. She assured me there can be life after knee replacement.

In true patroller style, she rescued me—not from a crash on the slopes but from my fear. And she inspired me to find a solution so I could return to the sport I love. It was New Year’s Day, and it began a fresh start on life.

Ed. Note:  In upcoming issues, Harriet will describe what she learned on her knee replacement journey, offering helpful advice and insights.  Look for articles on how to do your research homework, unusual tips to help you choose a doctor, questions to ask when interviewing doctors and more.


  1. Elizabeth says:

    Yay Harriet! I’m so glad to see this series being written. You have the perfect perspective to convince others that there is indeed skiing (and lots of other stuff) after knee replacement (s).

  2. Nice comments on one of our great Patrollers. Glad to see you are still active and writing. See you on the slopes.

  3. Hi Elizabeth (& Harriet),

    I would love to chat more with you about your experiences post-knee replacement. I know this article is a few years old now but hopefully we can get in touch! My email address is: [email protected]

    I do community outreach for an Ortho company and I love finding positive stories like this!

    Hope to hear from you,

  4. Thanks for this, Harriet! After years of putting it off, I found last year in spring slush at Breck I was only good for three hours or so a day. So on 12/18 I had my left knee replaced. So far so good… if anyone’s interested, I’m writing a day by day blog on the recovery process. I’m taking your advice and hitting the PT process hard, already back on the rowing machine and looking forward to an Epic 2018/19 ski season. And, Kyla, I’ve got a Stryker knee!

  5. Ray Thomas says:

    All I can say is my both knee replacements, Mar 2014, and Oct 2016, I’ve gotten my life back. I ski the backcountry 53 days this winter and my skiing is stronger than it’s been for years.

  6. Penny Nakamura says:

    I’m sitting on my sofa,4 days post-op from a total knee replacement. Iwas told this was going to be my worst weekend, and so far it is :0. How does anyone get addicted to opiates? I’m allergic to them. I felt so sick on them at the hospital, that they put an Allergy alert bracelet on me while I was there. It really came down to endure pain or feel totally naseauated the whole time. Not great choices. The opiates also gave me hives, which made my skin feel as if it was crawling. I’m hoping I can get through the next few days. Came back to this article, to remind myself why I decidedto do this :). I want to ski full days again.

  7. Thank you for these series of articles. I’m 56 and had my first total knee replacement at the end of June. Unfortunately, I’m still having pain and clicking on my new knee ,but just on the outside portion of the knee, all else is good, unless I’m going downhill or down stairs, then the outside of new knee gives me grief.
    WAsn’t brave enough to do it bilaterally, but will have my left knee done next spring after ski season. Looking forward to getting back on the slopes, without being in such excruciating pain.

  8. I have done about 3 weeks a year of skiing, but at age 73 I have had 4 months of hardly being able to walk on my worn out knee. ( had an ACL repair after skiing accident 30 yeats ago). So, I am searching the internet reading thoughts about skiing and other sports after knee repair. This is helpful

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