Austin | Dallas | Houston
Ski Champ Tells All

How to train for winter ski trip: Olympic gold medalist offers winning tips

Jonny Mosely at Squaw Valley
Jonny Moseley lives in Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe with his wife and children. Photo by Keoki Flagg
Jonny Mosely at Squaw Valley
Moseley learned from some of the best freestyle skiers during his training. Photo by Hank de Vré
Jonny Mosely at Squaw Valley
Moseley won the gold medal in freestyle at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. Photo by Hank de Vré
Jonny Mosely at Squaw Valley
Jonny Mosely at Squaw Valley
Jonny Mosely at Squaw Valley

Texas is a large enough state to encompass coastal and rolling plains, lush forests, deserts and basins. However, although Texas boasts a handful of mountains, the one thing it doesn’t have is a place good to ski.

It’s a shame too, because a lot of Texans love to ski. Coloradans have strong opinions about Texans visiting the Centennial State in droves come wintertime, but it’s a simple byproduct of proximity.

For those looking for a ski trip this winter though, it might be time to take the advice of Olympic gold medal winner Jonny Moseley and visit Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe. After all, it’s where Moseley and countless other Winter Olympians have trained for more than 50 years. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for a family vacation.

Growing up in the Bay Area, Moseley had to learn to get his body ready the same way that most Houstonians do: on snowless terrain in small bits of time.

Located on the California side of Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley was the first place in the United States to feature organized skiing and hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics, the first games to be televised live. That history made it a mecca for Americans looking to hone their skiing (and eventually, snowboarding) skills.

Moseley remembers growing up in the ’80s and ’90s in Northern California and taking trips every weekend with his brother and parents to experience the freestyle skiing scene at Squaw Valley.

“My brother had seen the movie Hot Dog, which was filmed at Squaw, and he went to Dad and said he wanted to do what they were doing,” Moseley says. “Freestyle wasn’t in the Olympics at the time or anything, but Dad said no problem.”

As Moseley began to pick up skiing, he realized that he was learning from the best out there. “All the coaches were these professional freestylers,” he says. “I was very much in awe of these guys, and they were my first coaches.

“I had world-class athletes as coaches when I was nothing. The coach is a bronze medalist, and he’s teaching peon kids, most of whom wouldn’t go anywhere professionally. Squaw has this attractive effect for world-class skiers, a kind of a domino effect, where they come back and teach.”

Learning from the pioneers of freestyle skiing at Squaw Valley helped Moseley develop his talents to become a gold medalist at the 1998 Nagano games as well as the 1998 World Cup Mogul Skiing title.

Now retired from professional skiing, Moseley resides in Squaw Valley with his wife and children. He says that the area is as comfortable for a family as it is for those training for the Olympics.

“My wife’s a skier, but she’s not hardcore,” he says. “And when you’re lugging kids around and bringing stuff and they’re hanging out five or six hours while you’re on the hill, there needs to be other stuff.

“They’ve invested a lot of time and money in bringing the level of amenities up to the level of skiing.” Those comforts include a domed area of the magic carpet lift, a beer garden and ski-in/ski-out Starbucks.

The resort recently merged with next-door neighbor Alpine Meadows to create a skiable area of 6,000 acres with 43 lifts and more than 270 trails, making it one of the largest ski resorts in North America.

 It’s important to build up your quick-burst endurance as opposed to long-distance. “Get some good wind going,” Moseley says. “Running is ideal. 

Moseley knows that it can be hard to train for an upcoming ski trip when there aren’t any runs available nearby. Growing up in the Bay Area, he had to learn to get his body ready the same way that most Houstonians do: on snowless terrain in small bits of time.

“One of the things to remember with skiing is that it’s plyometric,” he says. “You need get body ready for some kind of jumping. I’d say at the very most, if you have access to a trampoline, bounce around for a while side to side and up and down. It’s good to get in that compression mode where you’re taking G forces and letting them go.”

If you can’t get to a trampoline, Moseley suggests finding ways to incorporate lateral motion into your normal workouts. Whether it’s shuffles during your run or a series of one-legged squat jumps, the key is to make sure you’re working the outside of your hips and thighs.

It’s also important to build up your quick-burst endurance as opposed to long-distance. “Get some good wind going,” Moseley says. “Running is ideal. You get the most bang for your buck if you’re doing intervals and shuttles.

“Rollerblading is awesome, but I know that nobody does it. Whatever you’re doing, do it in high intervals, whether it’s running, biking, push-ups or whatever.”

And Moseley says that if you can wait, his favorite time of year to go skiing is the spring, when everything is a little more comfortable.

“It’s warmer, and we get that hot powder at Squaw,” he says. “Nowadays people go to learn in January in Breckenridge, and it’s kind of miserable. The spring has a great atmosphere where people are learning to ski, drinking beers and just dressed in a sweater and jeans. It’s the scene.”

Newsletters for exploring your city

Daily Digest

Houston news, views + events

The Dining Report

News you can eat

Insider Offers

Curated experiences at exclusive prices

Promo Alerts

Special offers + exclusive deals

We will not share or sell your email address