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Skiing 200 Days a Season Requires a Joint Effort

A ski resort in New Jersey receives around 40 inches of snow a year.

A ski resort in Utah can stack up 40 inches of snow in 24 hours.

From an early age, skiing fanatic Craig Gordon knew that New Jersey wasn’t a good fit to pursue his passion. In his mid-teens, Craig got his first taste of Utah’s legendary snow while visiting the Wasatch Mountains with a New Jersey ski club. 

Craig watched ski patrollers at Alta triggering avalanches with explosives and said, “I’m coming back to do that!” In 1985, he headed west to Salt Lake City.

Craig Gordon, Skiier and orthopedic patient at U of U Health
Skiier and U of U Health patient Craig Gordon

Since then, Craig has worked as a ski patroller and avalanche forecaster at Brighton Ski Resort, followed by a stint as a helicopter ski guide. Craig then joined the Utah Avalanche Center in the late 1990s. Now in his 25th year, Craig serves as the lead forecaster for the Uinta Mountains, teaches dozens of avalanche awareness classes, and created the highly successful Know Before You Go avalanche awareness program, which has been adopted by mountain communities around the world.

Craig logs 200 days a year on the snow, runs trails in the summer, and performs daily, strenuous, workouts in the gym. And while good genetics worked for him, the bad ones threw him a curve.

Midway through winter 2018, Craig's right hip began to let him know it needed attention.

At first, Craig thought the flareup was a hip flexor. 

But cortisone shots and Advil had little effect.

Craig consulted his fellow skiers as a sounding board and quickly concluded this was bigger than taking anti-inflammatories. He needed to make an appointment with Christopher Peters, MD, at University of Utah Health.

"Dr. Peters and his team had an immediate personal connection to me and what I do. They were all about, 'How can we get Craig to the next level?' Dr. Peters told me, 'I burn more calories in a day than he does all week.’ They understood my level of commitment to follow my passion, which ultimately saves lives."
Craig Gordon Orthopedic Ski Patient

Craig had his right hip replaced in June 2019.

At his two-week physical therapy appointment, Craig's physical therapist told him he was on the pace where most patients are at six weeks. A month after the surgery, Craig was doing 30-mile bike rides.

Then, Craig's left knee began hurting—the result of trauma from a motorcycle accident when he was in his teens.

Once again, Craig chose Dr. Peters, this time for a total knee replacement. Compared to a hip, a complete knee replacement is more complex, but Craig enjoyed the same recovery he experienced with his hip surgery. Hard work allowed Craig to be his active self—skiing and avalanche forecasting.

But Craig's joints weren't done complaining.

In April 2023, Craig and his wife were in San José del Cabo, Mexico. After a morning run on the beach, Craig noticed his left foot was pointing in an odd way. It was his body's way of compensating for discomfort in his left hip.

Craig knew what to do next. He scheduled his next hip replacement surgery for July with Dr. Peters' trusted care team.

Craig said, "Dr. Peters and Jill Erickson, PA-C, have amazing levels of artistry and human touch with patients. They helped me move forward with intent, allowing me to train and return to skiing without any discomfort. I can't say enough about the level of care I was given."

Dr. Peters, who is the George S. Eccles Endowed Chair for the Department of Orthopaedics at the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at University of Utah, has this to say: "Craig is a very unique individual. It is rare to see such a driven and motivated person passionately pursuing love of activity and appreciating the natural beauty of the mountains we live in. His success after having three joint replacement surgeries is a testament to what modern joint replacement and a desire to live life to the fullest can bring to motivated patients.”

So, this winter, if you see Craig on the slopes, try to keep up.

But don't feel bad if you can't.

After all, Craig's hip and knee joints don't play fair.

Meet Christopher L. Peters, MD

View Dr. Peters's Profile

Christopher L. Peters, MD, Orthopedic hip and knee specialist