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Worn out knees - tele or AT?

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  • Worn out knees - tele or AT?

    I've got bad arthritis in my left knee - had 70% of the meniscus removed a few years ago too. Last year skiing tele on some frozen coral reef I tweaked the knee and had a lot of pain the rest of the season. Later I was told I probably tore/strained the mcl in that knee. This fall I tweaked the mcl and possibly meniscus in my right knee. I was in PT for over a month and the right knee feels much better, although it swells and hurts after skiing hard. The left knee this year just hurts. Skiing thick powder over firm bumps yesterday I left after two runs - the last run was all about avoiding pain. Not much fun. It seems the pain really comes from the trailing leg and when I get forced low by a big hit on a bump.

    I've never really skied alpine and I've been teleing since 1981. Does alpine skiing hurt less / feel better for any of you with screwed up knees? I've never ever considered alpine, but if it will help me keep skiing challenging terrain I'm all in. Any thoughts?
    Last edited by pow; 22 December 2013, 04:14 PM.

  • #2
    There's a few things you can do.

    You can:

    Get shorter skis. skiing is a physics equation with you resisting the force applied to you from your inertia. Shorten the lever (the skis) and you will reduce the force applied to you.

    Chose shallower pitched slopes. This also reduces the forces acting on you.

    Modify your technique so your joints are at their nearly fully extended positions when you apply resistance. Your joints apply the most efficient force with the least muscular effort near the range of their fullest extension. Stand taller when you ski..

    Cultivate your skier intuition so you see your line and understand where and when you resist has a lot to do with how much force applied to you... (The classic example is a "check up" turn to scrub speed before a roll over so you reduce your inertia and potential force applied to you if you need to hit the brakes..)

    When my knees acted up when I first moved out west and began skiing many more days a year than when I lived back east, I rode a stationary bike with no resistance and it helped my knee strength a lot. My friend, who is a chiro, said that by doing that I was promoting blood flow, and helping to repair connective tissues that don't heal easily because they don't have direct capilary supplys of their own. They heal very slowly or not at all if you don't actively promote their recovery... I tryed running on the roads and my knees swelled up like balloons after every run. The bike worked for me.

    You could switch to alpine,.. I am sure a more pivoty technique allows the legs to act together powerfully with less effort. Make sure you have your release set properly because greater force acts both ways, on you and the snow...
    Last edited by tele.skier; 22 December 2013, 09:52 AM.
    the fall line is your friend.... resistance is futile


    • #3
      Skiing at the resorts is hard on the knees and hips period. So if yours are acting up and you have a history of leg problems then, yeah you are going to feel it. I have had two knee surgeries and I feel it from time to time. For me, I work hard in the off season to have strong legs and better margin for injury avoidance. Anyway, I went from being a 100% telemarker to a 30% tele and 70 fixed heel skier. IMO, Fixed heel alpine skiing at a resort on resort snow is easier on the legs that resort tele. Still, if you are into bumps and ripping hardpack then your knees will feel it.
      "Just say no to groomed snow"


      • #4
        "swells and hurts after skiing hard"

        H-RICE…after skiing. You might have to do this after each ski day or maybe you should just do 1/2 days.




        • #5
          Go alpine! After a bunch of years free- heeling, you will pick up alpine super quick. Go with some nice stiff boots and stay out of the back seat, you will be fine. Release, brakes, step-in, oh yah! Plus with dynafits in
          the Back Country, you will feel 20 years younger. The Dynafit kool-aid is very tasty indeed.


          • #6
            Agree you should go alpine, but do not agree you should get stiff boots. I'd go for mid-stiff, a shell in the 110-120 flex range.

            ain't no turn like tele!


            • #7
              Thanks for the feedback. I think I will demo some alpine gear for a day and see how it feels.

              I know nothing about AT or alpine gear, so a full time switch is terrifying. I could only get one set of gear this year so would probably get AT boots/bindings and would use them at the resort and in the backcountry. Any suggestions? I ski NTN right now with Scarpa TX Comp boots. I will ski more resort than backcountry but even at the resort I will hike a lot to get to steep funky ungroomed snow. Backcountry will be half day to full day tours.

              I have no idea how to choose the correct stiffness of an alpine boot. What stiffness would the TX Comp be similar to?
              Last edited by pow; 22 December 2013, 11:07 PM.


              • #8



                • #9
                  Originally posted by LightRanger

                  You are right as far as the actual movement of going downhill. When you need to click out and slog the flats or an uphill, your knees will not like you.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by LightRanger

                    I'm sure snowboarding would help in many ways but I will hold off on going there as long as possible due to the number of long traverses and areas I would have to avoid due to getting stuck in a depression. It also doesn't seem the best option for backcountry as all my bc friends are on skis.


                    • #11
                      Just saying, bc is where it is at....easy on the joints and still a thrill....go lite...have nothing locked in....allow "free heel", to protect you from stress build-up.....The natural ":bumps" in the forest are almost always stuffed with sweet soft powder making bumps into jubilant jumps....If you go to resorts do as Teleskier and Quad say....TM


                      • #12
                        Different experience here. For me tele is much easier on my knee. Brief history: broken and replaced PCL, repaired LCL, then 3 subsequent 'scopes to remove sloughed off cartilage that kept getting caught in the knee joint. Bone on bone in my right knee. The dynamic action of the up and down tele is much easier on my knee than the static parallel turn on alpine. Those days when I end up doing lots and lots of p-turns my knee is very unhappy with the torque that is applied in the side to side movement. Your experience may differ but for my money tele is easier on my knee. Good luck whatever you decide.


                        • #13
                          As a physician with one knee closer to bone on bone [original injury 41 yrs ago], I disagree that it categorically makes a difference tele vs AT.....I have tele skied for 33 years, played with AT for the last 3 yrs and in area both are same ball park of bothersome to me.........I DO find that backcountry is lots more comfortable on the knees tele or AT, but of course backcountry is 80+% touring/up vs the smaller percentage of the time going down......that is the huge difference for me...touring across or climbing up doesn't bug me's the down/pain that is the problem as MY knee is getting worse.....none of the orthopedic surgeons I know have a strong opinion of AT vs tele categorically being "better or worse" for knees....I think it very specific to the individual characteristics of the arthritis details in your individual knee(s)......that's my two cents worth, Chet


                          • #14
                            My current rule of thumb: Alpine gear for alpine terrain; Nordic (including tele) gear for Nordic terrain.

                            I switched to AT 6 years ago after teleing exclusively for 14 years. I still tele some, mostly low angle stuff. I have less knee pain, fewer knee issues and less muscle fatigue with AT. All my buds who have made the tele-to-AT switch report similar results.

                            The most important evidence: I doubled my annual touring days after I switched to AT.

                            Reducing ramp angle (RA) of my bindings has also resulted in less knee pain and less leg muscle fatigue. Modern rocker tip touring skis do not require much ramp angle, and less ramp angle allows one to ski more upright, i.e., not holding up one's body weight on constantly flexed knees. Fatigued legs, i.e., less support, can increase the incidence of knee issues.
                            Last edited by Big Steve; 23 December 2013, 12:12 PM.


                            • #15
                              Stay out of the resorts.