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Photo by Bob Legasa

Dan Herby Looks Great in Montana Post-Knee Replacement: ‘Why Didn’t I Do This Three Years Ago?’

AAll the years of driving and hitting potholes in the Spokane/CDA area, this impacts your platform. Most of us have had to replace the shocks on our vehicles a few times because the old ones took a beating. The same goes for various parts of your body, such as your knees, shoulders, and hips. All those intense days you had in your younger years in sport can take their toll on your body later in life.

I have over 45 years of hard skiing under my belt, and in recent seasons my knee pain has gotten progressively worse. It’s safe to say that my little red “Check Engine” light is starting to flash more and more. The idea of ​​a total knee arthroplasty has been circulating in my little noggin.

So when my best friend and longtime ski partner, Dan Herby, had total knee replacement surgery last spring, I paid close attention. Seeing how Dan handled the situation was essential for me and my peace of mind. Here’s a little story about what our knees have been through.

Dan and I met at Coeur d’Alene High School. in the accounting class over 40 years ago. I was the new kid on the block and Dan was the old guard, because he grew up in Coeur d’Alene. It was thanks to our obsession with skiing that we became friends. Dan was part of the local freestyle ski team Kaliope Sports. I was pretty new to skiing, but when I saw people doing freestyle, I knew that was what I wanted to do.

For the last two years of high school, we competed in Pacific Northwest Freestyle events at our local ski resorts. It was a year out of high school that we both moved to Squaw Valley to pursue freestyle skiing at a higher level. We both joined the Squaw Valley Freestyle team, where we were able to be coached. We were both combined skiers, where we competed in three different disciplines: moguls, ballet and aerials. Not only did we compete, but we also lived together during our years in Lake Tahoe. We were known as the Spud Boys. We trained on hard snow, six days a week, averaging over 120 days each season.

In 1983 a film company came to Squaw to film a B-grade ski movie called hot dog. Dan and I were hired as stuntmen for the movie about moguls, freeskiing, and ballet scenes. Dan also appeared in a few Warren Miller films in 1984 and 1985.

While in Squaw Valley (since renamed Palisades Tahoe), we both excelled and were selected to compete in the National Freestyle Championships. If you ranked high enough at nationals, you earned a spot on the US Freestyle Ski Team, which competed on the World Cup circuit against international ski teams in locations around the world.

The following winter, 1984, Dan won the national title, beating all 100 other American competitors.

After the win, Dan earned a spot on the USA Ski Team and would compete around the world. In the winter of 1985-86, Dan took off to travel the world: the Spud Boys were now on different, separate paths.

I lived in Squaw Valley and competed regionally while Dan traveled with the national team. It was after the third World Cup of the season that I got the call to join the USA Freestyle Ski Team: the Spud Boys were together again for the remainder of the 1985-86 World Cup season. .

Later, in the summer of 1986, I was offered to do jumps and ballet in a freestyle ski show sponsored by the Volvo car company. Dan planned to return with the USA Ski Team. It looked like the duo would be apart again, but at the end of the summer Dan gave up his spot on the US Ski Team and took a position with the Volvo Lounge. Now the two Spud Boys were traveling the world, skiing and earning a living. By now it seemed like we were pretty much a forfeit. If you have one Spud Boy, you have the other.

Click to enlarge The Spud Boys, Bob Legasa (right) and Dan Herby in Hawaii in 1992. They took their big air style on the road for a decade, landing 1,200 jumps a year.  - COURTESY PHOTO

Courtesy picture

The Spud Boys, Bob Legasa (right) and Dan Herby in Hawaii in 1992. They took their big air style on the road for a decade, landing 1,200 jumps a year.

The Volvo Ski Show was a freestyle skier’s dream come true, performing dozens of shows each winter at ski resorts across Europe, North America, South America, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. In the fall, when we weren’t jumping on snow, we were jumping off an artificial ski ramp at ski shows, fairs, NFL halftimes, and even on top of a Rose Bowl Parade Float. . The ski ramp was 30 feet high, and we slid across a plastic surface and were catapulted 20 feet into the air doing flips and pirouettes, landing on an inflatable cushion. Over the years, we’ve both had a few mishaps, like missing the airbag and landing on concrete. We averaged between 1,000 and 1,200 jumps per season over a 10-year period.

We both retired from ski jumping around 1994, and over the past 30 years we have both continued to ski hard, ranging from 40 to 60 ski days per season. These repeated knee strikes have been going on for almost four decades.

Few years ago, Dan started having a lot of pain in his right knee, so much so that he was limiting his skiing days and had difficulty working day to day as a general contractor. He lived on Advil and ice, and many nights the pain was so bad he couldn’t sleep. After months of deliberation, Dan ventured into Dr. Lyman’s office to discuss total knee replacement surgery.

“The doctor told me it was bone to bone,” Dan said, “there is no meniscus left to separate my tibia from the fibula, so after hearing what options I had, the doctor scheduled me a total knee arthroplasty. I had the operation last May just after the end of the ski season.”

The surgery went well and Dan began demanding physical therapy almost immediately, working on range of motion and strength. “They made me walk about 30 minutes after I woke up from surgery. They told me I could leave the hospital once I was able to walk to the toilet.”

Within weeks the pain was minimal and Dan was off all medication within six days. Dan continued his PT for two months and returned to his daily work routine in two weeks, and vigorous physical activity like hiking in eight weeks.

“Probably against doctor’s orders, I went waterskiing at seven weeks,” Dan added with a smile.

Fast forward to last December and Dan’s first day of skiing. Dan felt confident that he could get back on the snow and put the new knee to the test. Dan said his biggest fear was, “Will I be able to ski at the same level as before?

Dan’s thought after that first day: “Why didn’t I do this three years ago?”

Last weekend we were at Big Sky in Montana to visit Scot Schmidt, a longtime mutual friend in present-day Squaw Valley. Scot is one of the forefathers of steep, technical skiing, and he has made a name for himself in the ski industry. Dan and Scot starred in a few Warren Miller movies together in the 80s.

During our visit, Scot took us to an area they call the Falls, a ridge line filled with numerous cliffs, rocks, and steep 45 degree drops. I watched through the lens of a camera the two 60-somethings skiing as if they were in their twenties. Watching Dan ski this tough terrain without any hesitation or pain was my indicator that he was back on track and pain free. I overheard Dan mention to Scot, “I need to think about which knee got fixed because it feels good.” It was the peace of mind I needed.

So for all of us aging athletes, there is hope that we will once again be able to do many of the activities we so love to do without pain. Like in our youth, I probably should have made a deal with the doctor. ♦

Bob Legasa has been a Snowlander contributor to the Interior since 1994. He is also a Hayden-based freelance videographer, television producer and promoter of winter sports events with his company Freeride Media.