Spring and early summer is the only time of year that Laurenne Ross is not immersed in the world of alpine ski racing and training.
The U.S. Ski Team member and 2014 Olympian from Bend uses this time as somewhat of an escape, when she can go rock climbing, mountain biking and surfing, or play music and take classes at the University of Oregon in Eugene.
By late July she will be in South America or New Zealand, training with the rest of the U.S. team. But during the spring and early summer offseason, she must find ways to stay in ski-racing shape on her own.
We reached Ross via email while she was between racing events in Canada, and she talked about her workout regimen, her nutritional choices and life as a competitive ski racer.
A typical day this time of year for Ross, 25, starts with weight lifting in the morning and then some cardio or core/balance work. For cross training, she often cruises singletrack trails near Bend on her mountain bike.
“It’s such a good cardio workout, and also strengthens your legs and fast-twitch muscles, which you don’t get with many other cardio sports,” Ross says of mountain biking. “It’s another sport that I often find my flow in, and I can work on my timing and line when I’m downhill riding, which is relatable to skiing. I think skiing and mountain biking possess a lot of similarities and require a lot of the same physical and mental strength. Plus it’s one of the most fun ways to get an insanely good workout.”
Rock climbing at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne is another enjoyable way that Ross maintains her edge — both physically and mentally.
Ross says her favorite climbing routes at Smith Rock are Magic Light and Toxic. The most challenging route she has attempted is Chain Reaction, which is a 5.12c, in the “very difficult” range.
“Rock climbing provides a mental challenge similar to skiing, at least for me,” Ross says. “It is seemingly dangerous when you’re actually on the wall, with every move being critical and rigorous. You either make the right move and position your body correctly, or you fall. But the falls typically are not as dreadful or impacting as they are in skiing, which is quite nice.
“I enjoy rock climbing so much because everything else in the world just disappears when you’re on the wall; it’s just you and the rock, and that flow is something that is so rare for me when I’m not on my skis.”
While rock climbing and mountain biking are a crucial component of her offseason regimen, Ross also grinds it out in the gym about four times per week, working on ski-specific muscles. Such workouts include power cleans, box jumps, bike sprints and core work.
Maintaining strong core muscles for balance, Ross explains, is incredibly important for alpine ski racers.
“A lot of people think we just get in the gym and squat for hours, but core workouts are actually more common,” Ross says. “Fighting g-forces at high speeds takes a lot of core strength, along with leg and upper-body strength.”
An early start on the slopes
Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Ross got her start in skiing near Calgary when she was just 2. Her father, Rob Ross, had been a ski racer and was eager to get his three daughters on the slopes at young ages.
The family moved from Edmonton to Klamath Falls when Laurenne, the middle daughter, was 5, and she began skiing and training with the Bend-based Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation. On winter weekends, the family would drive the 140 miles to Bachelor.
Ross was involved in a range of other sports, but skiing eventually won out over another love, gymnastics.
Laurenne was named to the U.S. Ski Team just after graduating from Klamath Union High School, and she has now been on the team for seven years. She made the World Cup Circuit in 2010, and after a few injury-plagued seasons, she posted a second-place finish in a downhill event during the 2012-13 season.
Laurenne moved to Bend about three years ago, about the same time her parents did so. Rob is the medical director of community health strategies for St. Charles Medical Group, and Janey Purvis, Laurenne’s mother and Rob’s wife, is a family physician at Bend Memorial Clinic.
An Olympic opportunity
At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February, Ross finished 11th in the downhill. She also competed in the super combined (downhill and slalom) and super-G but did not finish those events.
“I was really happy with how the races went for me,” Ross says. “I went into the games with no expectations. I just wanted to soak it up, enjoy the experience, race my hardest and leave with no regrets.
“Unfortunately, I was unable to finish two out of the three events I raced in at the Olympics, so that was a bummer. But I definitely skied fast, even when I didn’t make it to the finish line, and that’s what I went there to accomplish.”
Aside from her 11th-place finish in the downhill, the highlight of the Sochi Games for Ross was the opening ceremonies.
“It started my whole experience off with a bang, and left me feeling so motivated and blessed to be among so many talented athletes, part of such an incredible team, performing with and in front of the world,” she explains.
Ross’ parents and sisters — Allana, 29, and Hilary, 22 — traveled to Sochi to watch Laurenne make her Olympic debut.
She wrapped up her season in late March by placing 11th in the giant slalom at the U.S. National Championships in Squaw Valley, Calif.
Training and preparation is a constant in the life of a World Cup and Olympic skier — and maintaining proper nutrition is a crucial factor in that preparation. Ross says she does not have a strict diet, but she tries to eat as healthy as possible, not always an easy task when traveling throughout the world about eight months of the year.
“It’s really hard to keep up with the amount of calories we burn during the winter, so sometimes your diet can’t be all greens and meats,” Ross explains. “A lot of times during the winter we don’t have much of a choice as to what our meals are (when we’re staying in hotels, etc.) so I typically ship a box of food over to Europe at the beginning of the season in order to stay healthy and get the nutrients that I need.
“I have learned to really love and appreciate American natural food stores from spending so much time in Europe. When I’m over there I dearly miss kombucha, hearty seeds and nuts, and popcorn!”
Ross adds that taking the extra time to cook a healthy meal — when she has the time — is well worth it. Her advice in preparing meals is to “make time and take your time.”
“It can be so much more delicious and you’ll feel so much better than you would if you ate a quick and easy (not as healthy) meal,” she says.
Making time to jam
Apart from skiing, mountain biking and rock climbing, Ross has many interests. Perhaps her most profound non-sports passion is music. She grew up around music and has blossomed into an avid guitarist, pianist and singer who travels with her Little Martin guitar during the World Cup season.
“It is such a good stress-reliever when I’m on the road, and it puts me in a whole other world when my skiing world gets small and tough to understand,” Ross says of playing music. “Music also just makes me feel so full and it’s such a great way to relate to people — getting together and jamming is one of my favorite social activities.”
Drawing and knitting are two other hobbies for Ross, who admits that sometimes she has trouble spreading herself too thin with all her passions. She says ski racing and training always come first, but she is constantly seeking a balance with her other interests.
“I find that I’m always happiest when I’ve got my drawing pad, knitting, skis and my guitar by my side,” Ross says. “They’re my best friends: all so different, but they all contribute to my completeness and happiness.”
Ross no doubt will enjoy this offseason, but soon she will be back chasing snow. Such is the life of a World Cup skier. •