This is the last article in the Life in the Slow Lane series where we interview World Cup athletes to talk about their experience with the coronavirus outbreak and how they’re coping with the quarantined lifestyle.
It seems like years have passed since the ski season was cut short due to COVID-19. We’ve hunkered down, we’ve masked up, and we’ve put away our gear with bigger hopes for next year.
But on May 14, Oregonian skiers received a sliver of hope with this message on Instagram from Mt. Bachelor: “We’re reopening Saturday, May 16 for limited spring operations. What a ride it’s been — thank you for your patience and positivity these last two months!”
Unsurprisingly, two of the first skiers to get out there were Oregonian U.S. Ski Teamers (and partners) Tommy Ford and Laurenne Ross. And their turns were well-deserved because, just like many of us, these two have been following the strictest of quarantine protocols for months. When we caught up with them back in April, they were in the absolute thick of lockdown—grasping onto every hobby and recipe insight to pass time, while reflecting on the positive aspects from the winter.
It was Ford’s most successful season yet. He won his first World Cup—the GS at Beaver Creek—and produced a slew of other fantastic results including third at the Niigata Yuzawa Naeba GS, fourth at the Soelden GS, and fourth at the Chamonix Parallel GS.
Ross, meanwhile, emerged from a difficult knee injury and jumped back into the groove of freeskiing across several months, all while finishing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Oregon.
This final installment of Life in the Slow Lane—a six-part series catching up with World Cup athletes about their experiences with the pandemic—jumps into the nitty-gritty with Ford and Ross. And while there’s a long way to go until we all reach skiing normalcy again, it sure is nice to see these two rippers on a chairlift again.
Laurenne, congrats on finishing up school. How does that feel?
LR: It feels good. It was a strange way to end it all with COVID, though. In my last lecture in March, maybe half the class was there. People were starting to just not come, and the finals were moved online… I studied art. It’s such a wonderful degree. I’m not sure if I’ll pursue a career specifically in art but I’ll probably go for a masters in something else—using my artistic, creative background to pursue a different field.
And Tommy, congrats on strong winter. What was the season like after your first win?
TF: It’s tough having to navigate what comes after, for sure, as far as tensions and expectations go. It was a challenge for a month or so, but I stayed steady with my approach and started to have some good races again. All in all, it was a really good continuation from the year before.
So, you’re both back in Bend right now. What does your living situation look like?
LR: We’re living in a house in the historic district. It was built in 1928 and has a ton of character; it’s really cool.
TF: Laurenne owns the house and I’m just a bum who lives here.
LR: Yeah, yeah. He’s a bum, but we share it. It’s beautiful. It has Victorian archways and original wood floors. It’s a bit worn and a little small; 1,100 square feet with a 500-square-foot basement where our roommate lives. I guess it feels small because we have a lot of stuff—like three guitars, a banjo, two violins, and a piano. Tons of books. Lots of random art we’ve both made. Rocks we collect. Ceramics I’ve made. All sorts of hand-me-down furniture. When I bought the place in 2011, I inherited so much old stuff from friends and family and now it’s this cozy little unique spot. It’s basically the opposite of modern.
What else have you been up to indoors to pass the time?
LR: I’m doing lots of knitting. Tommy draws a lot. We’re both making paper cranes quite a bit.
TF: It’s been pretty busy honestly with normal stuff, too. A fair amount of emails and phone calls. It’s been important to make time for ourselves because relying on our devices so much right now can really suck all of your energy out.
Picking up any hobbies?
LR: We’re eating a lot of ice cream. Is that a hobby? And Tommy is trying to teach me how to skateboard.
TF: You’re kind of talking to the ultimate hobbyists here.
LR: Yeah, the new rule for us is no new hobbies. We’ve got too many.
And what have you been up to outdoors?
LR: We’ve been doing quite a bit of cross country skiing. A couple of days we’ve done a couple of mellow alpine tours but it’s so questionable whether it’s allowed so we’re both nervous about it and trying to be super safe. It takes a bit of the fun out of it but what we have been able to do in the mountains has been really awesome.
TF: Just some running and walking, as well. And a bit of skateboarding. We also grabbed some weights from our local gym and brought them to a friend’s garage that’s got a bunch of big open space, so we’ve been lifting there.
LR: We also have one of those intense assault bikes with the huge fan on it. That’s all me, actually. Tommy hasn’t used it yet.
Alright, some rapid-fire questions here. What’s something you’re both eating all the time right now?
LR: Bread, which is unusual for us. We normally stay away from gluten but we’re on a huge bread kick.
LR: Pu-er. It’s a type of tea and I’m obsessed.
TF: And creatine.
LR: I feel like, somehow, we don’t have time to watch anything. But we did watch this weird movie called Horse Girl.
TF: Really weird.
LR: Tommy’s reading like 12 books at all times.
TF: This is true. And I’m listening to The Goldfinch.
Listening to, other than the audiobooks?
TF: I listen to a lot of Marketplace on NPR. BBC World Service. News stuff like that.
LR: We’re also going to start playing virtual Dungeons and Dragons with my family, so I started listening to some crazy Dungeons and Dragons podcasts. Neither of us have played before. It feels like a real commitment.
And what’s a lesson you’ll take away when this is all over?
TF: I’ve learned that I need to make time for myself no matter what the situation is, whether it’s quarantine or everyday life. You need those moments to stay grounded. I also need to learn how to make more quick, easy dishes that produce a lot of food.
LR: I’ve learned that I’m fairly uncomfortable with the unknown and not having anything to look forward to. It’s difficult to function when I feel like I don’t have a strong purpose. I’m a super purpose-driven person so I’m trying to be okay with not knowing what’s ahead.