Tess Johnson is The Inn at Riverwalk’s Resident Athlete and a professional mogul skier on the U.S. Ski Team. Tess was born and raised in the Vail Valley. She is passionate about where she is from and where she is going. Her latest blog details an incredible ski season full of both trials and triumphs.
What a season it was! This was the most intense, fun, and chaotic season I’ve ever experienced in my career. Being a professional skier training and competing for a spot at the Olympics during the pandemic was an experience I can never forget.
For me, this winter felt a bit like two seasons jammed into one: before and after the Olympics. Before the Olympics, it was all about performing. I trained the hardest and longest I ever have during the preparatory seasons, and I knew I could make my second Olympic team if I kept the focus on what I could control. I skied to two World Cup bronze medals and was ranked 5th in the world right before the Olympics, which are achievements I’m quite proud of. The intensity of the Olympic qualification process was only exacerbated by crippling COVID protocols that left each of us on the team isolated from literally everyone.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get the spot, and thus came the heartbreak of losing that dream. I was full of all sorts of emotions during that time, and while it was turbulent, I’m thankful for every moment because it has made me the person I am today. I’m also very proud of my teammates who did go to the Games as they skied with pure heart and left it all out there. In fact, my amazing teammate and friend Jaelin Kauf won the silver medal! I was very sad to miss it all, but words can’t express how proud and happy I am for each of my teammates. I ended up going to China as an alternate isolated in my hotel room (which I wrote about in depth in a previous blog), and when I arrived home utterly drained, part two of the season began.
After processing all that happened in part one of the season, it was most important to me to tap into my passion for skiing. I eased back into it, and the moment I clicked into my skis, it was like riding a bike. Not making the Olympics ignited a deeper love for all parts of skiing: the lovely community, the beauty of being outside in the fresh air and gorgeous mountains, the adrenaline rush of feeling like I’m flying! I realized that skiing is the closest I’ve ever been to flying, and that makes me smile.
I remembered that my love for skiing was born in Vail Valley, surrounded by beautiful scenery and people. I feel so lucky to be from the Valley, raised just up the hill from the Inn at Riverwalk! And this season revealed just how much my hometown means to me, and the role it has played in my success as a skier and person.
So, after spending several much-needed weeks at home, I finished the World Cup Tour in Italy and France with a big smile on my face as the 5th overall ranked skier and ended the season as Singles and Duals US National Champion. My parents got to watch me compete in France which was incredibly special as they don’t often get to see me ski in person, and I arrived home this time feeling more fulfilled than ever.
This season taught me that life is so much more than the highlight reel of triumph we tend to display. It’s about feeling it all: defeat, heartbreak, passion, and pure bliss. I was able to feel the pure bliss that skiing gives me because I felt loss as well. Everything considered, this is the best season I’ve ever had, and I thank countless spectacular people for standing by my side through it all (family, friends, coaches, staff members, teammates, sponsors, fellow competitors, volunteers), especially everyone at the Inn!
All that being said, I’m having so much fun at home right now. Spring skiing in the back bowls at Vail with my family might be some of the most fun I’ve ever had on skis. My favorite runs in the back are Yonder Trees, Ghengis Khan, and Campbell’s Face. There really is nothing better than miles and miles of that perfect spring slush, and the back provides just that. My parents have caught me grinning from ear to ear on every run we’ve skied this spring because it’s just too much fun! Ending the day with some tacos from Rocky Mountain Taco in Minturn and a hot tub at the Inn makes for the perfect spring day in the Valley. And as soon as the snow melts, you can catch me on “Lee’s Way” in Avon trying to emulate that feeling of flying on my mountain bike.
Happy Spring! I hope this blog finds you all healthy and happy as can be.