Catching up with Tess Johnson, Resident Athlete at The Inn at Riverwalk

Weaving through a 250-meter mogul course with two big air jumps requires skill and athleticism. But for this Vail Valley local, who started skiing at age two and competing by age 9, it’s more than a sport; it’s an obsession. 

“Competing in moguls is an eclectic version of skiing,” says Tess Johnson, a US Olympic freestyle skier and resident athlete at The Inn at Riverwalk

Tess fondly recalls her earliest memory of skiing with her BEAVO group, a multi-session youth ski and snowboard program offered through Beaver Creek Ski School. Her ski instructor, Coach Pete, instilled a passion for skiing, taking the young enthusiasts through fresh powder and tree runs, including her favorite, Coyote Glade. She fell in love with the unique skiing sport after taking a Bumps & Jumps clinic on Vail Mountain while lapping Chair 10. We catch up with Tess Johnson to learn how she overcomes injuries, manages her mindset, and her favorite way to spend time in the Vail Valley. 

Believe. That’s been Tess’s guiding light since that day in Vail when she decided she wanted to be a competitive mogul skier. She sketched the word into a pair of Converse shoes when she was younger to remind her to keep believing in her goal.

“If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will,” said Tess. Her razor-focused mindset has led her through some enormous ups and downs in her career. She became the youngest athlete on the National Ski Team at age 14, competed at the 2018 Olympics, and earned podium finishes in numerous competitions. But as any athlete knows, injuries are inevitable. 

“Injuries are difficult for athletes,” Tess explains. “You feel aches and pains but don’t want to admit it. Athletes are supposed to be strong, resilient, and able to overcome it (the pain).” Tess underwent back surgery in April and spent the summer of 2023 rehabbing and rebuilding her strength. During this time, she worked on fundamental and foundational movements while using the pool as a tool to move without any impact. Recovery is challenging, but she focuses on the future ski season. 

“A big tool that I use to get through the mental side of the sport is mindfulness and meditation. I have practiced it with a sports psychologist since I was 14 years old.” Tess explains that it is crucial to take a few minutes, or even a few seconds, to reset during your day. Whether it is refocusing during the rush of a competition, taking several seconds at the start gate, or carving out a few minutes before bed, finding the right mental mindset is key. Focus, determination, and a healthy dose of humbleness have led to her early rise as a young athlete.  

No matter what you’re doing, Tess says, it’s important to remember that you’re trying your best. “Athletes are human and experience highs and lows like anyone else.” Other female athletes, such as Mikaela Shiffrin and Simone Biles, have helped pave the way to talk about the mental pressure and physical turmoil athletes put their bodies through. “It’s tough and can be mentally crippling at times.” Luckily, there are numerous resources to help manage the mental aspect of the sport. The US Ski Team and local organizations in the Vail Valley, such as Eagle Valley Behavioral Health and Speak Up Reach Out, provide mental and behavioral health resources. 

More than anything, a robust support system is essential to her career. Tess explains that she wouldn’t be here without her family and community. “Having a home in the Vail Valley has been one of the greatest things in my career,” she explains. The Vail Valley has experienced the highs and lows of her career alongside her. Through it all, she describes how the community has provided unwavering love and support. They were there to rally funds for her family when she made the Olympic team in 2018, days before she was supposed to leave for South Korea, and stood by her when she fell short of her lofty goals. Even when she failed, the community support made her feel like she belonged. 

“One of the best examples of feeling supported in this Valley is the partnership with The Inn at Riverwalk,” says Tess. The family-owned business has supported her for several years. What draws Tess to The Inn is that it is accessible to anyone. Tess explains that while the glitzy nearby resort towns can feel pretentious, The Inn welcomes everyone and captures the essence of the mountains. 

Stocked with modern amenities while maintaining an old-school, peaceful vibe, The Inn is where you can be yourself and feel like you belong. Its central location is a great place to experience everything the Vail Valley offers, such as hiking, biking, fishing, and skiing. “I love to spend as much time as possible outdoors,” she says. If you’re looking to take advantage of everything the Vail Valley has to offer, Edwards is a central home base. 

The Inn is the place to play. As an independent hotel in the heart of authentic Edwards, Colorado, The Inn is close to the adventure yet away from it all. Guests at The Inn have complimentary access to the Gear Garage to check out Specialized hybrid bikes, snowshoes, sleds, and board games. Need rentals or guides? The Inn helps make your stay even more affordable by working with local businesses to give special discounts and offers exclusively for guests.

Tess acknowledges that rest is essential to physical and mental recovery. Luckily, The Inn encourages both adventure and rejuvenation. With numerous room types to choose from, including double queen or king rooms or one and two-bedroom condos with fully furnished kitchens, you can settle into your stay. All rooms feature plush, feather-bed mattresses, luxury bath products, and 24/7 self-serve Lavazza Coffee & Tea Bar access in the lobby. Soak outside in the riverside pool and hot tub, or gather around the fire pit and enjoy an evening under the stars. 

It takes a village to raise an Olympic athlete. Tess openly expresses her gratitude for her family, teammates, and community, including the long-standing partnership with The Inn at Riverwalk, for her success. Through her accomplishments, and her failures, she is grateful for the unwavering support she has received. 

Experience the best of the Vail Valley at the Inn at Riverwalk. Book your stay at The Inn today.