Olympic Skier Julia Mancuso Reveals Her Secrets to Staying Fit and On Top of Her Game

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When temperatures drop and you’re forced to face winter head-on, there’s only one way to handle the cold: Embrace it. Instead of going through the motions at the gym, take advantage of the snow by grabbing some skis and hitting the slopes. Our ultimate source of inspiration is four-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso.

Mancuso, or “Super-Jules” as her teammates call her, is one of the most celebrated women in alpine skiing. But despite standing atop many podiums, Mancuso got her start in skiing the way many of us do—as a child on a mountain in her hometown (which for Mancuso was Squaw Valley, CA).

Mancuso’s determination has proved to be especially important in 2015, as she underwent hip surgery. “It’s been a lot longer of a process to heal than I was hoping for and thought it would be,” she says. “But I think that’s just a new challenge, especially athletically, to learn more and hopefully turn out stronger and better.”

The alpine pro is still recovering, but her positive attitude about the months ahead is enough to motivate anyone to get outside. “I’m just looking forward to winter and getting back in the cold,” she says.

Here, Mancuso shares her training tips, favorite ski spots, and top gear picks with us. Read on for more.

Image: courtesy of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
Image: courtesy of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

What advice do you have for young athletes?

“You have to face so many decisions as a kid about school, priorities, and commitment. For some sports, you go the college route because your sport is in college and that’s how you make the Olympics. But there are a lot of sports, like skiing, where you don’t get a lot of time to be in school and you have to decide, ‘Am I going to go 100 percent into skiing?’ I think my biggest advice is to know that the discipline you learn in sports really pays off in the future. Even though you may not be the most educated in a school sense, you learn so many life lessons by doing a sport.”

Do you have any mental tricks for dealing with pressure?

“I practice yoga and I meditate to clear my mind. Even meditating on nothing helps me. It allows me to brush things off. Look at what’s in front of you and stay focused on that.”

Other than yoga, do you do any other unexpected cross-training?

“Skiing is a really diverse sport, so you can really do anything to cross-train for it. I cycle, mountain bike, surf, and am really into Pilates. I do a new kind of Pilates that my instructor developed called neuro-kinetic Pilates, where we take my ski boots into the training, hook everything up, and get the movements down using all of the balance body equipment.”

SpyderIn terms of gear, what are some of the basic must-haves that a recreational skier should have to get going in the sport?

“Definitely a good pair of ski pants and a ski jacket. I wear Spyder, and their Core Sweater is a great first piece to bring into the snow. Then, goggles and a helmet for protection. I love wearing a helmet. It’s so comfortable and if you crash, it keeps your goggles on.”

If you’re buying skis for the first time, what are some things to consider?

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is always to get what’s easy to use. Even when I’m ski racing and picking my skis, the fastest, stiffest ski might have the best run of the day, but for overall consistency I’m going to pick the one that’s easier to use in all conditions. Snow is a hard thing to predict because it’s always changing.”

What are your top three skiing destinations in the U.S.?

“Well of course, my favorite place is home at Squaw. Then, I love going to Aspen, where we always have our World Cup season opener. The third would be Whistler, which is not in the U.S., but is close.”

If you want to hit the slopes this winter, pick up a Mountain Collective pass today. The pass includes two days of skiing or riding at 11 of the world’s most renown skiing destinations (including Aspen, Mammoth Mountain, and Whistler), plus a 50 percent discount on any additional days.