By Ava Jemison

“When did you decide to predominantly focus on ski racing instead of surfing?” is a question I’ve gotten from many curious alpine athletes and parents. For me, I’ve always just tried to do what I love while staying immersed in training and competition. As different as these sports may seem, they actually complement each other and surfing has helped fuel my ski racing career.

Growing up in Colorado, I spent all my free time skiing in the mountains and being outdoors. When I had vacation time, my family and I would seek the opposite and head to the beach for a change of scenery. With such blessed opportunities, I was able to discover surfing which soon became another passion I chose to foster. Whether it was the sea or snow on a bluebird day, my love for outdoor sports and competition had me hooked at a young age. I caught my first wave attending a surf school while on summer vacation.

From that point on, I grew to love the challenge of paddling out on big days and the serenity of waiting for a good wave. I appreciate the laid-back and supportive surf culture, and of course, the incredible feeling of catching and cutting down a wave and reacting to each unique break. I learned how to be adaptable and follow my intuition in a constantly changing environment. By the time I was 12 years old, I had a taste of competition. Two years later my mom and I were flying to Southern California for surf competitions on the weekends when I wasn't skiing.

To make up for my lack of training in the ocean, I would surf as much as I could when we were on our short trips; 3 hours in the morning prior to an afternoon competition and then again after the competition to prepare for the next day. At that point, I was not an elite surf competitor but I was having so much fun that my results were secondary. Eventually, I began to day dream of competing collegiately, especially when I hit an athletic slump in my ski racing career at the tail end of high school.

Skiing has always been my first love. I truly enjoy the competition, the progress, and the feeling of a good run. Despite my dedication and success in ski racing throughout my youth, I began to lose the joy in my late teenage years. This was due to personal life issues unrelated to skiing but the distractions had clearly obstructed my mental clarity and ability to ski well.

As I lost focus, I became even more frustrated since my race results declined. I was not on track to take my ski career to the next level and considered quitting the sport altogether. This was a hard time. It was painful to think that all the years of hard work and effort would become insignificant in an instant. At this point, I imagined I would transition to surf life as an alternative. This “back up plan” was a glimmer of hope since my lifelong dream of ski racing was diminishing. The idea of surfing was one of the few things that helped brighten my perspective.

By my senior year in high school and what I considered as potentially my final season, my coach suggested I take time to remove myself from the personal disruptions and give ski racing a full-focused effort in Burke, VT. This year helped me reset my ski mentality. I learned exactly what I wanted to do, and had the confidence to go after my dream wholeheartedly.

By taking a step back, I realized how my relationship toward surfing could influence my skiing in a positive, productive way. Surfing helped me realign with my first passion by guiding me to adapt, find the flow and to just enjoy nature; all the qualities I originally embraced in skiing. By applying these lessons into ski racing, my alpine career took a big step forward. Surfing shaped me into the ski racer I am today by combining the qualities of both great passions, and ultimately continues helping me to become the best athlete I can be.

Ava Jemison is a World Cup Dreams Athlete. To learn more about her,


By Alayna Sonnesyn

Julia Kern, Jessie Diggins and Alayna Sonnesyn at recent roller ski race in Lake Placid. (PC: Reese Brown)

After a blissful recovery week back in Stratton, the SMS T2 team was off again for a mini training camp in Lake Placid. Last week, we drove three hours into the Adirondacks to stay in a beautiful mountain lodge (shoutout to the Lehman family for hooking us up). During this camp we prioritized sleep, hangout sessions on the porch hammock, and games of cornhole. Oh, also training!

We left Stratton after a few intensity sessions already completed during the week, so our first day we ran into the mountains for an over distance workout. We could not have asked for better weather and were jumping for joy when we could look out and see the leaves changing colors. The following day, we took it pretty easy before a big weekend of rollerski races that NENSA put on for everyone.

On Saturday, we drove to the new rollerski track at the Lake Placid Olympic Bobsled training site and race in the Keys to the Castle. With heats of four people sending it around some pretty spicy downhill corners, we were all happy to walk away unscathed with a great effort under our belts and a super fun day!

Some roller ski racing action from Lake Placid. (PC: Reese Brown)

The following day, we had an early wake up call to book it over to Jericho, VT for another rollerski race. This time, a 15k skate for both men and women. We were blessed with another gorgeous fall day. I think everyone was pretty tired by the time we made it around the course three times, but everyone I saw had a huge smile on their face as we were stoked to all be there together and racing hard. Thanks NENSA for an awesome weekend of racing and a great excuse to travel around New England with this team!

The SMS T2 Team is an elite cross-country ski team supported by the T2 Fund of World Cup Dreams. Check out the team roster here.

Hello, World Cup Dreamers! I just wrapped up a productive training camp in Saas Fee and Belgium with the women’s World Cup Tech Team. For those of you who don’t know Saas Fee, it’s a picturesque Swiss ski village with great views, hiking trails, volleyball, fondue, and of course - glacier skiing. Reflecting on the camp, I can’t believe how lucky we were. We had unbelievable snow conditions, world class training partners, and so much fun every day. I’m stoked on how my skiing is progressing and more motivated than ever to put in the work for Sölden.

Here are my top 10 highlights from the trip:

#1- Simply being back on snow and doing what I love. Check out this view - it really doesn’t get much better than this!

#2 - Bluebird skies and hard snow! Saas Fee can be be a bit of a gamble as it's notorious for weather closures. Somehow we only took 5 runs (total) in fog over the course of three weeks! That’s a huge win in my book.

#3 - Training GS with world cup winners Zan Kranjec, Filip Zubcic, and Mikaela Shiffrin. I’m a visual learner so it was awesome to see their line and watch how they attack break-overs.

#4 - Narrowly escaping this crash with an Austria technician mid course. Somehow no one was harmed in the making of this video.

#5 - Fondu dinner with the team! This truffle and Prosecco infused cheese was incredible.

#6 - Epic afternoon activities in the sun. We played countless games of spike ball and volleyball every day.

#7 - Dialing in my skiing and equipment set up. I’m currently playing with a few different ski and boot set-ups and trying to see what’s fastest. Shout out to my technician Bart and everyone at Rossignol - I couldn’t do it without you guys!

#8 - Reconnecting with so many friends, teammates, and coaches after the summer. I missed these people. It felt like the entire ski racing world was in Saas Fee.

#9 - 3 days of indoor slalom training at Snowvalley in Belgium. This was hands-down one of the iciest training venues that I’ve ever skied at. Indoor skiing is a great way to get a ton of volume and work on generating speed. My biggest focus was trying to “skate” into the top of each turn. I definitely made progress, but could never quite keep up with AJ Hurt. Watch out- her slalom is dangerous!

#10 - Touring Brussels on the last night of our trip! We roamed the Old City and enjoyed our fair share of Belgian specialties.