After learning the remainder of her season was cancelled due to COVID-19, US Ski Teamer Alice McKennis boarded a plane from Switzerland to Colorado with a pack of sanitizing wipes in-hand. The plane was nearly empty and she had a row to herself, so she proceeded to wipe down not just one seat, but three.
As McKennis puts it, she felt like “some sort of hypochondriac,” with her seat wipe-downs. It was early March, and not everyone was fully grasping the contagiousness of COVID-19 yet—especially people from the States. But as she looked around the plane, a few passengers were wiping down their seats, too. For her, that’s when the strangeness of this pandemic really set in.
Upon arriving in the States, life felt pretty normal for McKennis compared to the unease she’d experienced in Europe. The CDC hadn’t set up guidelines for people like her—people who’d been traveling abroad—and it was basically business as usual in the Rocky Mountains as far as the government was concerned. So, McKennis called to set up an appointment with a physical therapist. But when she mentioned her recent travels, the tone of the conversation changed.
“Because I’d been in Italy, I was given strict directives from Vail Health and several doctors there that I needed to go into self isolation and quarantine myself for the following 14 days,” says McKennis. “And my husband works at Ski Club Vail. So because he’d been in contact with me for three days, he couldn’t work and missed his athletes’ championships.”
By the time McKennis and her husband, Pat, had completed their two-week quarantine, the entire world had essentially shut down. So they drove safely to their home away from home in Moab, Utah and have been there since. Here’s a taste of what they’ve been up to during this strange and slow time.
How did you end up picking Moab as your home away from home?
I grew up spending a lot of time here because my family owns a ranch here. So I’ve been coming here my entire life. And now my husband and I own a house, as well. We love it. It just makes sense to be here right now.
What are you doing inside to pass the time?
Pat’s still working remotely, planning ahead for the ski club. For me, besides the normal day-to-day emails, I’ve been doing a lot of home projects. I’m in the middle of putting up a kitchen backsplash, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. It’s a process. We’re also working on cleaning out an old cabin my family owns east of Moab in the La Sal Mountains. It’s another project that’s been on the back burner for a few years and now we actually have the time. So, yeah, it’s crazy cleaning out this old thing and seeing if there’s any potential to use it in the future.
And what are you doing outside to pass the time?
A lot of mountain biking. I’m grateful to have it so accessible right here in our backyard. It’s been good for me both physically and mentally to get ready for next season. We’ve actually skied a little bit in the La Sals, too; a couple of tours with super mellow, low-angle corn skiing. There’s definitely some pretty gnarly stuff up there but we’ve found a couple of nice meadowy spots and you still get a taste of spring skiing, which is nice because, just like everyone else, we basically missed out on it this year.
Seems like everyone’s baking bread and making puzzles—stuff like that. Have you taken up any hobbies?
The one super random thing I’ve been trying to do is transplant cactuses… We have some native cactuses around my house and I’ve had this planter I’ve always wanted to fill, so I’m attempting to transplant some. It’s really hard to tell if the cactuses are dead or alive once you move them… I’ve moved three and it’s unclear if they’re just dead. Time will tell.
Alright. Some rapid-fire questions here… What do you find yourself eating all the time these days?
Peanut butter. I don’t know why.
A lot of seltzer. We’re on the Sodastream program.
We started watching Tiger King but we’re not big TV people so that didn’t last long.
I’m reading a book called Dreams of Eldorado. It’s a very brief history of the American West.
I’m listening to a lot of NPR, which is both helpful and depressing.
When the pandemic is eventually over, what’s a lesson you’ll take away?
Time is valuable. We really need to take advantage of what we have and not waste time. Appreciating every day feels more important now because clearly things can change very quickly.