Between getting back in the saddle after a rough knee injury in the 2021/22 season and Tahoe's epic winter of 2023, scoring a featured article in Backcountry Magazine is the cherry on top of a perfect season for Weston Athlete Claire Hewitt-Demeyer. Who doesn't love a good comeback story!?
"My grip strains as I cling to the Kilter Board, two holds from topping out on a 40-degree overhang, forearms pumped, left hand balancing on a sloper hold, left hip bracing the wall. Right hand on a crimp, I’m nervous to reach for the next hold. My right leg starts to Elvis shake. I let go of the wall, pushing away slightly and dropping to the floor. Both feet land on the mat, with my left knee angled inward. Two loud pops sound and I’m rolling on the mat, holding my knee to my chest, repeating, “My knee, my knee.” I stretch my left leg, but my knee shakes, able to extend just 30 degrees.
That fall in October 2021 I met one of the hardest obstacles I’ve faced. I tore seven parts in my left knee, requiring a surgical repair of my ACL and both meniscuses. Three weeks after my injury, I was out of surgery and facing a year of recovery. As an athlete, I don’t usually think about injuries, but this one rocked my world—and messed with my identity. As someone who struggles to sit still; who is always excited for the next adventure, any amount of down time is a challenge.
But losing my ability to walk forced me to find creative ways to enjoy the outdoors. I caught the tail end of fall in Lake Tahoe and crutched my way to the nearby beaches and meadows with my favorite canine, Buddy. Tommy Bahama chair strapped to my back, packed with essentials (coloring book, chocolate and headphones for my audiobooks), I would take grand adventures—of about 50 feet—before feeling exhausted. Slowly, I worked my way up to 3-mile treks. But regardless of distance, the fact that I was able to be outside and embrace the outdoors meant the world to me."
It’s a rare day that conditions line up to party ski a couloir midwinter, but Hewitt-Demeyer and Van Aken scored those unusual conditions on a February day in Colorado. Photo: Cooper Long.
In a remote Colorado zone, Claire Hewitt-Demeyer and Corey Van Aken didn’t need to worry about who got first tracks. Spoiler alert, they both did. Photo: Cooper Long.