Uncertain times are driving questions surrounding professional sports seasons that up until now have been something we can reliably look forward to each year. Now, we question when and if seasons will take place, if fans will be present, and how the overall landscape of professional sports will change. We asked Tess Johnson to update us on the outlook for training, traveling, and the competitive ski season this year.
You’ll recognize from mogul skiing courses and podiums the world over like World Cup Dual Moguls, U.S. National Championships Dual Moguls, oh, and the Olympics. You may also recognize her as a native to the Vail Valley and The Inn at Riverwalk’s Resident Athlete.
Training as a professional freestyle skier during a pandemic is not something I thought I would have to overcome in my career...but here we are! And just like everyone else in the world, I’m finding ways to make it work.
With the support and resources of the U.S. Ski Team, we’ve been lucky enough to still have a relatively normal preparatory season. While we normally would have had much more on-snow opportunities than our single camp to Mt. Hood, Oregon in July, we’ve been able to water ramp and workout in the gym relentlessly in Park City, Utah where the U.S. Ski Team is based. When I’m not in Park City, it’s pretty amazing to have the Inn at Riverwalk gym at my disposal as a semi-private space for me to workout. Since I have to pass two COVID tests before every training block in Utah, extreme social distancing is crucial. As everyone in the world knows, it’s been hard refraining from socializing with friends and going out to eat, but it’s one of many sacrifices I’ve had to make during my career to achieve my Olympic dreams, and it’s absolutely worth it.
Historically, water ramping hasn’t been very enjoyable for me because I always had it in my head that it was my weakest point. (For those of you who aren’t familiar, water ramping is a tool that we use during the off-season to practice our jumps into a pool. The safety of the water allows us to try new tricks, and we wear a wetsuit, helmet, life-jacket, skis and boots.) Jumping in general has never been my strongest aspect, or so I thought.
All of the adversity that COVID brought into our lives encouraged me to adjust my attitude for training (water ramping specifically), and life in general. I set a goal for myself to make everyday the best it could possibly be, and within the first few days of water ramping back in June, I could already see improvements in my jumping. Plus, I was genuinely having fun! Water ramping quickly became something I looked forward to everyday with excitement, even during the fall when the water was freezing cold. By our final water ramp/dryland camp of the prep season in September, I’d learned four new tricks that are snow and competition-ready! I’m so happy about the progress I made, and it feels good to put a silver-lining on the pandemic and use it as motivation to excel as a skier. These past few months have proved the immense power of a positive attitude, and I plan to take this mindset into the winter season with me.
The competition season is just around the corner, and fortunately every event with the exception of Russia is still on the schedule. Things will certainly look different with regular COVID testing, PPE, contact-tracing, and no crowds, but I’m just thrilled that we will have the opportunity to do what we love most - compete!
We are planning to leave November 4th for Scandinavia and will be going back and forth from Finland and Sweden for a month and a half. The FIS World Cup tour commences on December 6th in Ruka, Finland followed by two more events in Idre Fjall, Sweden.
I haven’t been on skis since July, which might be the longest time I’ve gone without skiing since I was twelve years old, so it goes without saying that I’m very eager to get going again. We will be training for the entire month of November, and I’m planning to bring all my water ramp work into a top-to-bottom mogul course. I’m currently at home in West Vail working out at the Inn, preparing mentally with my sports psychologist, and resting up before the big journey.
The rest of the season includes stops to Mt. Tremblant and Calgary in Canada, Japan, Kazakhstan, and China for World Championships. We are anticipating inevitable COVID and logistical bumps in our road, but mainly we’re just overwhelmed with gratitude for the upcoming opportunities to ski and compete amidst a pandemic. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to vote!