US Ski Team's Moguls Champ: Jillian Vogtli by Christine Lynn Harvey

Olympic Mogul Skier, Jillian Vogtli is a 9-year member of the US Ski Team and ranked 6th in the World. As the current National Mogul Champion, she also just captured her first world Cup Title in Inawashiro, Japan. I interviewed her in between her competing at the 2006 Olympic Freestyle Venue in Sauze d'Oulx, Italy and traveling to Norway and then World Championships in Ruka, Finland.

Jillian began skiing at the age of 10. She grew up in Ellicottville, a small ski town in Western New York. Though she lives in Park City, Utah now she still calls Ellicottville home. Spending everyday that she could on the hills of Holiday Valley, she was introduced to mogul skiing when she was 14. She played soccer in high school and college. But it was always skiing that was her true passion. She says that what draws her to mogul skiing both then and now is the continual challenge of it." One can really never perfect a mogul run," she says, "that skiing has a freeness about it that I have not been able to find in any other sport to date. There is something about the crisp wind on my cheeks."

Vogtli owes much of her success to following a natural health lifestyle. Though she has endured three reconstructive knee surgeries throughout her career, she has come back only stronger ever time. So why is it that she is able to? Her answer to this is that she tries to learn from each experience by taking time and listening, really listening to what it is that heart and body want, then the mind is allowed in. Through her own self-discovery, Vogtli has found her second passion through Alternative Medicine and has decided to pursue her Doctorate in Natural Health. Her hope is to one day open her own practice so that she may educate others in the prevention of dis-ease.

Vogtli is mentored and inspired by Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D., author of ten books on Shamanism with his most recent one coming in April "Mending the Past and Healing the Future with Soul Retrieval." He is the founder of "The Four Winds Society" and works with Vogtli on a regular basis. She attributes her current success to him and his sharing of ancient Incan wisdom. "He's opened my eyes and introduced me to another world, a world full of awareness, compassion and gentleness for both myself and others. Jillian uses many of his techniques to keep herself grounded and focused both on and off of the hill. One of the things Villoldo has taught Vogtli is how to balance her chakras so that she is fully present in any situation. "For me it is about having a practice that I come back to every day, which brings to bring me back to my center. This is something that I am aware of and practice both on and off the mountain. Having this practice helps me to come back into the moment and to let go and let be." She believes that in order to be on top in whatever you choose in life, you need to have clarity first. "It’s about trusting that there is something much grander than all of us out there and when you tap into this, you know with your whole being that you are in great hands and that there is no use in worrying it as things are always going to work out."

After being the first alternate to the 1998 Olympics, Jillian went back to the drawing board and figured out how to make fulfill her lifelong dream of competing in the Olympics. Four years later, two reconstructions and a whole lot of sweat later, she succeeded and Vogtli made her Olympic debut in the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. She said that her proudest moment was standing in the gate and looking out over a crowd of 10,000 and knowing beyond a doubt that it was all worth it. Now Vogtli is focusing on a medal in the 2006 Olympic Games.

Most skiers are stuck at the intermediate level and never attempt mogul skiing for a variety of reasons. What contributes to Vogtli's success is her perseverance. She believes that it’s not about who has the most talent, but who is willing to give it (whatever one chooses 'it' to be) a whole lot of heart. She is certainly dedicated and. What keeps her going? She laughs and says, "My heart says that it is right and I love what I'm doing!”

For those who have never skied moguls before, Vogtli says that the basics are the same for whatever level you are at with your skiing – just the techniques are different. "Most people have a fear of going too fast and losing control on skis, so I would recommend a good stance with your center over the balls of your feet and then keeping your eyes and hands ahead of you. It's a trust issue and all about committing - trusting that your body will know how to do it once the basics are established.”

Vogtli says you should first master the basics like learning to truly turn a ski before you attempt the moguls. Since skiers from the east spend a lot of their time learning to ski on ice both in and out of the moguls, it is imperative that you know how to turn your skis. Vogtli moved west after finishing college with hopes of making the US Ski Team. When she arrived, she admits to being a bit surprised to find so many fellow competitors that looked great in the moguls but could not turn once they were not around moguls. "It would only make skiers better if they stepped out of the moguls, put those aside and learned how to master the basic skills first."

In the off-season from May through November, Vogtli trains 6-8 hours a day working on her strength and conditioning. This includes both road and mountain biking, yoga, pilates and weight training. She says that yoga has helped her considerably with calming her mind and finding balance both on and off of the slopes. Vogtli practices her aerial maneuvers at the Utah Olympic Park by skiing down turf and jumping into a large pool. Jillian was also a member of the US Cycling Team where she made the 2004 Olympic Team. During the ski season, she says that beyond some basic maintenance, most of her training takes place on the slopes. Little time is spent in the weight room during the season because overworking the muscles can lead to fatigue which can lead to injury, a major concern for competitive athletes. "We're skiing 30 miles an hour and jumping 20-30 feet in the air, so we have to be fit. You want to be sharp for the hill. You don't want to be flat," she says. "The time to build is in the off-season."

Because of her injuries, Vogtli had an epiphany that forced her to see how her life was being ruled by being a competitive skier. "The lesson is repeated until it is learned. As an athlete, you become so much of what you're doing that you lose perspective on the fact that you aren't what you do. There's so much more to you. It took the rug being swept out from under me to realize that."

Jillian thanks her home resort Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, NY who supports her in so many ways. In her spare time, Jillian designs jewelry.You can visit her art at: www.jewelrybyjillian.com. For more info on US Ski Team, www.usskiteam.com. Front cover photos courtesy of Jselkowitz/Selkophoto.com.


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