Moguls are tough on the knees, and Sho Kashima knows that better than most.
After two season-ending knee surgeries, the South Tahoe moguls pro also knows exactly what it takes to get back on the bumps at the highest level.
"The biggest lessons you can learn are from the toughest times," Kashima said.
Kashima was named to the 2013 U.S. Freestyle Moguls A Team on Friday. This marks the seventh year he's picked up the national honor.
"It's the fun that keeps me coming back every year," Kashima said. "Most of my teammates are also some of my closest friends."
That and the Olympic dreams Kashima is finally on the verge of catching.
Kashima was all set for a trip to the 2010 Winter Olympics when he tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus about three months before the Games.
Last year, Kashima was erasing all that. With three World Cup podium finishes, 2011-2012 was shaping up to be his best year until he was dealt another season-ending blow.
Halfway through the season, Kashima tore the ACL and meniscus in his other knee and fractured a femur.
It was a devastating setback. Kashima had just spent the better part of a year rehabbing the same injury in his quest to climb back to the Olympic level. Now he was back to square one.
But like Kashima said, the biggest lessons are learned in the toughest times. So once again, he started marching down the same rehab road, keeping his head down and sights set on February. February because that's when Kashima expects to be competition-ready again.
"I've had all this time to be able to think what I can improve upon and how to better my weaknesses," Kashima said. "Last year started out to be great, so I'm just taking everything I've learned since then and building on it."
Between rehabbing, Kashima is coaching freestyle at Winter Park Resort, and snagging some quality time with his little brother, who seems to be following in big bro's footsteps. Yamato Kashima is nearby at Cooper Mountain competing in Selections, where the top 60 moguls skiers are vying for a World Cup start.
Kashima is also busy logging mountain time of his own.
He got back on the slopes for the first time this month. He's skiing moguls again, hitting jumps and his knee is responding well.
"Maybe another month or two of being on the hill and just getting some mileage on my knee," Kashima said. "It's a little scary because some days my knee will hurt and some days it will feel good. So I'm just trying to find that consistency."
And if anything positive can be taken from the ordeal, Kashima found it.
"Unfortunately it's a weird advantage to have the same injury twice. I know what's to come and what's normal," Kashima said.
What's to come is Kashima tearing up the slopes in front of a home crowd in March.
Heavenly will host the U.S. Freestyle Championships starting March 29, and Kashima is looking forward to putting the injury behind him in front of a hometown crowd.
"I don't think I've skied in front of my family in a few years, and most of my friends from back home," Kashima said. "It will be good to come back and be able to compete there. The last time I did I think it was 2004."