Ohh yeah...I herniated L4/5 about 2 months ago. MRI shows a sizeable disc protrusion which is "compromising the L5 nerve root". I have the typical neural symtoms including parasthesia (now mostly gone) and muscle weakness causing foot drop in left foot (not gone, but somewhat improved). At first I could hardly balance on my left leg, that's a lot better now.
I'm 44, have been skiiing for 25 years, and felt like I had, well, at least a couple of years left in me
I asked the neurosurgeon (who didn't wan't to operate) whether I had to give up skiing, mountain biking, kayaking etc. His attitude was "well, you'll possibly do another disc one day, but it's just as likely to be while bending over to pick up the soap in the shower, meantime you might as well get out there and enjoy yourself". So I plan to try skiing, maybe in a month or so, and see how it goes.
Meantime I'm having a clinical pilates session once a week, which is great, doing various core strength exercises at home, and doing lots of walking and swimming to keep fit. Biking stirs it up so have stopped that, sex doesn't so have continued that
So, to answer your questions:
1) While I haven't yet "continued to ski" I certainly plan to and all the research I've done indicates it should be OK, eventually. I have 2 friends who've herniated discs and both ski fine now. I think it will be a question of "how soon" rather than "if ever". I might give the cliff dropping a miss though. I'll let you know how it goes.
2) How to recover quicker - these days surgery seems to be out of favour except in really bad cases, although the people I know who've had it have had great and immediate results. Otherwise you seem to be doing about all you can. I can recommend both the Vioxx and the physio (check out clinical pilates if you can, its good for your skiing too), be careful your physio doesn't get too carried away and stir up the nerve though. I didn't have the steroids but the literature does seem to indicate they may help in the early stages.
Check out these for some encouraging news:Spontaneous resolution of Ruptured Lumbar DiscNonoperative Treatment of Lumbar Radiculopathy
Good luck, let us know how it goes.