Closing out the 2020-21 Season

I began my preparations for the 2021-22 Olympic season in quarantine, in the middle of smoggy Almaty, Kazakhstan. As I sat on my bed, alone, watching the rest of my teammates and the World Cup Tour athletes try their hand at World Cup Finals (before the event was cancelled due to fog), I felt completely and utterly alone. A few days earlier, I had received a positive COVID test, which had flung the entire US Moguls Team into survival mode.

I had gone to World Championships in Kazakhstan as an alternate, which meant that I did everything but compete — I was just there in the event that one of my teammates couldn’t compete. I used the whole trip as a learning experience: after all, World Championships was the environment I wanted to be in. I treated everything — the competition training, the recovery afterwards, etc. etc. — as though I was actually competing. Below is my forerun from the event.

My forerun from World Championships in Almaty.

A cork 7 from Kazakhstan. Photo: Lara Carlton.
Cheesin on my last day of training before I tested positive for COVID… 🤦🏼‍♀️ Photo: Lara Carlton.

As soon as we arrived in Kazakhstan, the COVID scares started. On our second day, rumors began spreading that some Team USA aerials athletes had contracted COVID (both moguls and aerials World Championships were happening at the same place/same time). Due to confidentiality reasons, we weren’t allowed to know who had contracted the virus, but a guessing game as to who was missing from daily meals quickly presented the right answers.

The US aerials and moguls athletes were all staying in the same hallway in the hotel, which quickly became desolate once more and more people on our floor contracted the virus and many athletes preferred to stay in their rooms, even if they had tested negative. There were several times where I would open the door to my hotel room to see someone in a haz-mat suit a few doors down, distributing COVID tests. The whole thing felt almost apocalyptic. Shortly after seeing the haz-mat suits, I’d hear a slam of a door, and my roommate, Hannah, and I would poke our heads out of our room (masked up, of course). Time and time again, a masked individual was solemnly departing from their room with their suitcases, only to be relocated to another floor because the unthinkable happened: their roommate had gotten COVID and the still-negative individual had to be removed before they contracted the virus, too.

Following World Championships, we had the option to take an earlier flight home, which I had attempted to take advantage of…that is, until I received a positive test, barring my departure home. I was promptly put into isolation for 11 days and couldn’t leave my hotel room, while the rest of my teammates who had tested negative left Kazakhstan a few days later. Our team PT graciously stayed with me for the entire duration of my quarantine. He was already vaccinated at that point, so he was quite helpful in getting me snacks I needed from the store and chatting with me through the hotel door.

The view from my hotel room in quarantine in Almaty!

While spending 11 days in isolation was a lot to bear initially, I tried my best to make the most of it. I was immensely thankful for my enrollment in Columbia, as that gave me something to chip away at. I gave myself little challenges, too, such as meditating and doing yoga every day to keep busy. Checking in with family and friends during that time was also huge for my emotional state!

I also wasted zero time in intentionally beginning the start to the next competition season by reflecting upon the competitions from the previous year and visualizing what’s to come.

Following my time in isolation, my PT and I had a day to spend in Almaty before our flight home, so I dragged him on a 9 mile walk. Ascension Cathedral is one of my favorite sights in Almaty!
Already craving this start gate feeling again… Photo: Lara Carlton

Considering the circumstances, I was incredibly thankful that all of my moguls teammates were able to return home ahead of me, healthy and safe. The US Ski and Snowboard Medical Team was also absolutely critical to my staying healthy and were lifesavers in the logistical sense — making my life insanely easy when it came to the process of getting my flights home approved!! I was also quite fortunate to be largely asymptomatic, apart from fatigue and a sore throat that lasted a day.

Spring Fun 🙂

Since those long days in Kazakhstan, I made the most of my off time in the spring: trying my hand at mountain biking, spending time with friends and family, camping, indulging in spring skiing, and chipping away at my undergrad degree! I appreciated the opportunity to recharge in ways I hadn’t in a little while — for instance, since my ACL injury in December of 2019, I hadn’t taken a week off from workouts, so the break was much-needed.

Skinning in Steamboat…one of my favorite winter activities 🙂 Photo: MK
Some cool rocks in Moab! I really enjoyed exploring new places close to home this spring…
Spring skiing with my mum at Snowbird! 🙂
Ice cream & catching up w/ Avital, one of my best friends 🙂
Biking with fraaands in Moab! Mountain biking has been a super fun way for me to spend time this spring – I’m loving the challenge of improving and scaring myself a little bit… Photo: Maggie’s GoPro!
A sweet view from a sunset skin in Park City!

An Unexpected (Cyst) Twist

For me, the start of prep season was quickly cut short as I had to undergo an unanticipated — and completely unrelated from skiing — surgery in early May, due to an ovarian cyst that had been bugging me for several months. My recovery from my cyst removal, while relatively short, took quite a bit of mental tenacity to complete successfully. Before the ovarian cyst removal, I was crushing it at spring camp in Snowbird. I felt like I was finally back up to speed: skiing my very best and in a great headspace. Abruptly stopping training was a difficult process, especially because I had felt as though I had incredible momentum going into the start of the 2021-22 preparation season.

My teammates – Kai Owens and Maddie Hogg – and I after a day of spring training up at Snowbird!

Kicking off 2021-22 !!!

At this point, I’ve just finished up our first water ramp camp, as well as an on-snow camp in Mount Hood, Oregon. I was able to do some of my first cork 10s on snow in nearly two years — it’s been incredible to finally get back up to the entirety of my jumping degree of difficulty following my ACL injury!!

Thanks to the hard work of my coaches as well as the grace of Timberline Lodge, we had a fantastic venue that was the perfect place to regain confidence on a trick that I hadn’t completed in a while, as well as to continue to work consistency on some of my other tricks (back full, cork 7). My knee is also feeling fantastic! Each day feels more and more normal as I progress and continue to improve. Some of my general strength numbers still need a bit of work, but I am inching closer to where I want to be moving into the 2022 season!

One of my cork 10s from Mount Hood. I LOVED doing these on snow again and am looking forward to making tons of improvements on this trick at the next water ramp camp! Video: Bryon

I also had the opportunity to train with Ikuma Horishima (Japan National Team), one of my idols and the best mogul skiers in the world (and of all time!!), not to mention one of the sweetest people I’ve met!! (Here’s a vid of just how insane he is.) He was particularly fun to train with because I was able to pick his brain on technique, observe his process closely, and witness his unparalleled ability to transcend the laws of gravity and do tricks on a mogul jump that the vast majority of skiers wouldn’t ever dare to try.

Ikuma and I at the end of the camp in Mount Hood!

Thanks for following along on this insanely jam-packed update! As the prep season progresses, I hope to update you all more regularly on my training and competitions… Leading into this Olympic season especially, I’m incredibly grateful for all of your support and love as I continue to chase my athletic dreams around the world. Can’t wait for what’s to come ❤️ For some photos & videos from Mount Hood, see below!

Skiing in Mount Hood!
My teammates, Tess and Jaelin, training on Mount Hood. We trained with all weather variables – snow, rain, hot sun, which helps us tackle various courses while on the world cup tour.
A back full from the camp in Mount Hood! Photo: Lara Carlton
During the camp in Mount Hood, some of my teammates and I had the opportunity to watch Track and Field Olympic Trials at the University of Oregon. The whole experience was pretty cool to witness – and a great precursor of what’s to come for us during our qualifying events this season!
Mentally prepping for a jump. Photo: Lara Carlton