Julia Mancuso, the Olympic gold medalist in alpine skiing, will celebrate her 30th birthday in March. But before she blows out the candles on that milestone-birthday cake, she's got something to check off of her to-do list: Add some more metal to her trove in Sochi, Russia, at the 22nd (and Mancuso's fourth) Winter Olympics.
"Super Jules," as her teammates call her in a nod to her command of the Super G event, is already the most-decorated American female downhill skier, having won three Olympic medals and five World Cup titles, plus enjoying four World Championship podium finishes.
Mancuso, who was skiing in Europe in the weeks leading up to Sochi, took the time to answer these five questions:
What is one misperception about professional skiing that you'd like to clear up?
It's not all glamorous. I mean, it is pretty fun to travel the world, but we have to lug around a ton of luggage and that gets old. I'm also only home for a total of about two weeks between October and April — and that's if I am lucky. I ski about 200 days a year, including 55 days just in the summer months. And from Thanksgiving to mid-March I typically ski six days a week.
What do you most look forward to during your off season and, during that fleeting time off, what are two things you spend time doing that would surprise readers?
I look forward to relaxing at home, and doing everyday stuff like cooking dinner. I also enjoy skiing like a normal person — not on a race course — and having fun with my friends at Squaw Valley. Two things? I love to cook, I collect shells, and I play the ukulele. That's three!
What is your go-to off-season workout regimen — and what should the rest of us be doing?
Lots of leg and core work. I spend about six hours a day training, six days a week, and three of those days I make my legs burn hard by doing hill sprints or one-leg bike sprints.
We've experienced several drought years in California/Nevada and seen what it does to the ski season. Are you involved with any nonprofits that are working to educate people about climate change?
I'm involved with Protect Our Winters. We signed a letter urging President Obama to take greater action on climate change and clean energy. Really, I just do what I can to help people become aware that what they do can impact the environment, and hope that we can make a change on a bigger level.
Despite the cluster of ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe area, not that many top U.S. skiers live in Tahoe. Why do you continue to make Tahoe/Squaw Valley your home?
I grew up in Squaw Valley, in the tiny valley where I signed my [return address] "Olympic Valley, CA," and stared at KT-22 — one of the mountain's signature runs — all day long. It has such a special place in my heart. Not only did I grow up there, but I have had the opportunity to ski at all the different areas in Tahoe. It has the best terrain by far. I love the whole mountain at Squaw, but any run on KT is amazing — you can spend all day on that lift and never ski the same line.