Brita Sigourney's first run in the 2011 Snowbasin Dew Tour halfpipe was good enough to win the event. On her second lap, confidence high, she attempted her first competition 1080. Without enough speed, Sigourney landed low and broke her pelvis, taking crutches with her to the podium. Four weeks later, she made it to Winter X Europe, but atrophied legs caused Sigourney to break her collarbone. Season over. She's not the only one who suffered season-altering injuries last year. We spoke with several athletes who were benched last year about what they learned when their bodies didn't hold up, and how they plan to make up for lost time this winter.
Athlete: Mark Abma
Diagnosis: Torn MCL after airing off a cliff, landing in his slough and twisting his knee.
Status: Having gone through the rehabilitation process when he did his other knee the previous season, Abma knew the routine. His knee felt "amazing" when he skied in Chile in September.
What I learned: "When you're on top of the game and skiing is your life, that's kind of where you direct all your energy," says Abma. "All of a sudden that's taken away from you and it's kind of just you sitting on the couch staring at the mountains while everybody else is killing it. It's definitely a humbling experience."
Winter plans: Abma says he's going to ease into the season before his filming obligations by touring to new zones he's been exploring on Google Earth.
Athlete: Brita Sigourney
Diagnosis: Broken pelvis and broken collarbone.
Status: Sigourney says she's spending as much time in the gym as possible to help prevent injuries in the upcoming season.
What I learned: "I definitely learned that you should listen to your doctors and you can't rush a recovery," says Sigourney.
Winter plans: Look for the 21-year-old to be stomping those 1080s and finding a place atop the podium.
Athlete: Jess McMillan
Diagnosis: Filming with Warren Miller Entertainment in Chile in Sept. 2010, McMillan went into a high-speed tomahawk in a couloir when the snow unexpectedly transitioned from hero to bulletproof. She suffered a 30-degree subluxation of the C1 through C5. Basically, she dislocated her head.
Status: By not seeking medical attention until her back seized up while driving in the U.S. several weeks later, McMillan turned a month-long injury into a 10-month stay on the disabled list. Now she's 100 percent good to go, she says.
What I learned: "First and foremost, listen to your body," says McMillan. "I kept ignoring the symptoms. When your body tells you it's hurt, it's hurt. Whether that means taking some time off or going to see someone for help, there are reasons we feel pain, and ignoring that pain makes it worse."
Winter plans: McMillan says she'll be back on the Freeride World Tour and back in front of the lens for Warren Miller this season.
Athlete: TJ Schiller
Diagnosis: On the day before last season's first Dew Tour competition, Schiller overshot a jump, landed in the flats and suffered an ACL meniscus tear with a bone contusion, as his fibula smashed his tibia.
Status: Due to the severity of the injury, Schiller had to get a replacement ACL using hamstring grafts and has been rehabbing for 11 months. He was set to go to New Zealand with the Canadian Freeskiing Team recently, when he twisted his knee and aggravated the injury. At the time of this interview, he was getting fitted for a knee brace so he could go ski groomers at Cypress Mountain the following day.
What I learned: "I got into yoga this year," says Schiller. "I gained a lot of flexibility from that, flexibility I didn't know I had."
Winter plans: "I'm going to try to take it easy, build up slowly till my confidence is back, then it's throw-down time," he says. "I'm going to go win some stuff and take flat landings like a boss."
Athlete: Pep Fujas
Diagnosis: Fujas did a 360 off of a pillow and landed awkwardly, tearing the anterior talofibular and anterior tibiofibular ligaments in his ankle.
Status: Fujas' ankle is 100 percent. "I'm pretty hungry, strong and ready to have some fun," he says.
What I learned: "I learned that regardless of how many times you get hurt, it doesn't get any easier," said Fujas.
Winter plans: From Russia to Japan and Alaska, commitments with Poor Boyz and Nimbus, Fujas' winter is booked.