I learned to ski in Queenstown NZ when I was 56 - four years ago. I'm most comfortable on green runs but can ski the M1 (blue run) in Queenstown and wanted to improve so booked a trip to Big White in Feb this year with my husband.
Unfortunately, I fell on my first day out in Big White in Feb and spent six weeks hoping my knee would be fine and trying to determine from the internet what damage I may have done. I finally convinced myself that I had only torn my MCL. When I first fell, I felt intense pain for about maybe one or two seconds and then no pain. I thought "Oh Im okay". I heard no "pop". I removed my skis, and dug my ski boots into the hill and climbed up to our apartment. When I stood up and tried to walk my knee felt like something was giving way. So I went straight inside and found some ice packs in the freezer and commenced the RICE treatment (suggested on the internet). After a couple of days, my knee, although weak, wasn't giving way, so I walked up to the village and bought a double hinged knee brace from the ski shop and then started to do some mild exercises that I also found on the internet. So because of my mobility, not much swelling and ability to walk ok, I convinced myself that it was a torn MCL and would heal well enough to ski within about 3-4 weeks. I tried a couple of times in the six weeks we were there, but my knee was just not good enough and felt weak and like I shouldn't push it.
So I came back to Australia and first day went to see my physiotherapist. He gave me a few tests and said he didn't think I had torn my ACL but that my meniscus was probably damaged because I couldn't get down and waddle like a duck. I said I wanted to book to ski for the following season and that I would like an MRI done to make certain. So, results from MRI showed torn MCL (which had healed), completely torn ACL, complex tear in the medial meniscus (parrot beak), and vertical tear of lateral meniscus. Also a bone shear injury.
So I made an appointment to see the surgeon. The surgeon I chose was based on the fact that he holds the world record for the most ACL/knee reconstructions so I figured he would know what I needed to have done and give me good advice.
By this stage I was walking fine, with no instability. He asked me what I wanted to do in life (bearing in mind I'm now 60). I said I would like to ski again. He asked me what kind of a skier I was - I said I wasn't interested in black runs, but would like to "cruise the blues". He told me that, because my knee was stable and hadn't given way on me at all, I should go and undertake some intensive physiotherapy and then go and ski. He said if I experienced any instability or "giving way" that I should contact him and he would do the reconstruction. So that's what I did. I have just got back from 8 days skiing in Queenstown where I was able to ski down the green runs with no problem. I have booked to go back to give Big White a try again in Feb 2016.
I really think that if he had told me to have the reconstruction, I would have had it but not returned to skiing. I don't think I could take the stress of worrying about tearing it again after the long rehab required. But with my knee the way it is, and being able to ski on it, I don't think I will opt for the reconstruction unless something changes in the condition of my knee.
I am posting this to help anyone else who might be in a similar situation.