Johanna “Jojo” Winters was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and began skiing in 8th grade when her friends convinced her to join her high school ski team. Since then Winters has placed 4th in the Minnesota State High School Nordic Skiing Championship, competed in five consecutive Junior Olympics, and earned a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay.
After graduation, she continued her training with the CXC Elite Team in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and in 2008 placed 26th in the 5K Skate and 26th in the 10K Classic at US Nationals; in addition, Winters also clinched a 2nd place in the Skate Sprint in the Midwest SuperTour in Duluth, Minnesota, 3rd in the 5K Skate in the Midwest SuperTour in Telemark, Wisconsin, and 12th in the 2008 American Birkebeiner.
Winters enjoys “the challenge of pursuing excellence in something that takes patience and discipline.” She enjoys mid-distance races in both classic and skate and particularly the challenge of mass start formats. When Winters is not training, she enjoys printmaking, reading the news, perusing antique shops, and learning to speak French. Winters plans on training through the 2010 Olympics, and afterward hopes to combine her non-skiing interests to pursue art while living in France.
Birthdate: April 13, 1984
Hometown: St. Paul, MN
Current Residence: Minneapolis, MN
Ski Club: CXC Elite Team
12th Women’s Division, American Birkebeiner, 2008
3rd Women’s 5k skate, Midwest SuperTour, Telemark, WI, 2008
2nd Women’s skate sprint, Midwest SuperTour, Duluth, MN, 2008
26th Women’s 10k classic, U.S. Senior Nationals, 2008
26th Women’s 5k skate, U.S. Senior Nationals, 2008
Sponsors: Lake Express High Speed Ferry, American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, Salomon, Toko, Rudy Project, Tidd Tech Grooming Equipment, Becker Law, Rainbow Resort
When did you start ski racing, and what were some highlights of your young skiing career?
In 8th grade my friends convinced me to join the high school ski team. I had no prior experience in the sport so my first season on snow was mostly spent learning how to stay upright on skis…but I’m glad I stuck it out!
I was 4th in the MN State High School Nordic Skiing Championships my senior year, and earned a Division I athletic scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay for Nordic skiing. I also competed in Junior Olympic Championships for five consecutive years.
Who has been the most influential person for you, whether as a skier or a person?
My best friend, who I met in college in the art department, has been the most influential to me as a person. Though he is not a ski racer, we share a lot of common interests and a sense of humor, so he helps keep me balanced between my training/competing lifestyle and my other interests.
Where is your favorite place to ski, where is your favorite place to race, what is your favorite part of the season, what are your favorite ski conditions?
As a Midwesterner tried and true, I have very fond memories of skiing at the ABR and Wolverine trails in Ironwood, Michigan. These were some of the first trails I ever skied or raced on, so they hold a special place in my heart. My favorite place to race is probably the Telemark trails at Telemark Resort in Cable, Wisconsin—also a bastion of Midwestern ski venues, and home of the American Birkebeinet nonetheless!
My favorite part of the season is right after the holidays, when Senior Nationals are held, and I’m still on a high from the holiday festivities.
Like most skiers I love skiing on freshly groomed trails on a sunny day (no surprise there), but I also really enjoy skiing at night. Corny as it sounds, there’s something about skiing in the dark on a clear night that makes me forget about training and just appreciate the vastness of my surroundings.
What drives you to succeed at the highest possible level, and what are your long-term goals as a skier?
I enjoy the challenge of pursuing excellence in something that takes patience and discipline. Though it requires sacrifice, working towards improving myself athletically and personally can be very rewarding.
My long term goals as a skier are to place in the top 5 at a National event, compete internationally in a World Cup event, to enjoy training and competing as long as I can, and to contribute to the sport when I am a ‘retired’ racer.
What are your favorite race formats/distances, and do you try to specialize for these events?
I enjoy mid-distance races in both classic and skate, and I particularly like mass start formats because I think racers can push themselves harder when trying to stick with a group, and I enjoy the mental toughness this requires.
Our team’s training is geared to prepare us for multiple race formats without specializing too much in one event.
What are your overall goals for this season?
– Place consistently in the top 10 in the U.S. SuperTour race circuit
– Place in the top 15 at U.S. Nationals
– Place in the top 15 on the U.S. National Ranking List
– Continue to work and improve technique through the competition season
– Continue to develop a means to financially support my full-time training and competition schedule
Do you have any consistent training partners? Do you prefer training alone
or with others?
I train with my teammates on the CXC Elite Team when we are in camp or on the road for competition. When I am at home in Minneapolis, my favorite training buddy is Caitlin Compton, also a CXC Elite Team member. We enjoy scouting out the best rollerski training locations in the metropolitan area (Caitlin has a knack for finding the steepest and most obscurely placed hills). We often join up with other skiers from the Twin Cities to share training locales—it often turns into a social event but with intervals included.
What is your favorite on snow workout and favorite dryland workout?
I like sprint interval sessions on snow that mimic a sprint race, such as 3 x (3 x 1 minute) skate or classic speeds on varying terrain. On rollerskis I like exploring new training territory in the Twin Cities with training buddies. And I actually enjoy being in the weight room for strength training because there is rarely a dull moment at the gyms in Minneapolis—they are usually pretty entertaining in terms of people watching!
What do you enjoy doing besides skiing?
Printmaking, reading the news, reading in general, browsing antique and thrift stores for kitschy retro trinkets, shopping for shoes, daydreaming of places I’d like to travel, writing to-do lists, attempting to learn to speak French, watching foreign films.
In terms of employment, are you a 100% full-time athlete, or do you have another job besides training/racing? If so, what do you do?
Most of my time and energy is dedicated to training and competition, but I also work a few odd-jobs to make some extra cash to help cover living expenses (the quintessential dilemma for full-time skiers!). I’ve worked with the City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation in Minneapolis, mentoring kids interested in training and competing for endurance sports. I’ve also helped teach printmaking classes and workshops to kids and adults at the Highpoint Center for Printkaing in Minneapolis.
How long do you think you will ski at the elite level? What do you see yourself
doing after you finish your ski career?
I see myself skiing at the elite level through the 2010 Olympics, and then I will reevaluate my goals and determine if I’m ready to move in another direction in life. I’m sure I will want to go back to school when I’m done competing at an elite level. I can see myself pursuing a Masters degree in printmaking and possibly teaching at a university while making my own work. I also want to live in France so that I can finally master the language (or at least become somewhat proficient in it). Come to think of it, making artwork while living in France would probably be my optimal choice!
Of course I plan to be active in endurance athletics throughout my life. I hope to give back to the sport of Nordic skiing by helping coach junior and masters programs in my hometown, participating and volunteering at racing events, and sharing my love for the sport with my family.
Do you or did you ever attend college? How did you make that decision?
I knew I wanted to earn a college degree following high school, but I was also certain that I wanted to continue ski racing. This helped narrow down the breadth of possible school choices. I attended the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and competed on their Division I ski team for four years under Bryan Fish (who now happens to be my coach on the CXC Elite Team).
Do you enjoy racing/competing in other sports during the off season? Did you play other sports as a kid? What are some of your favorite non-skiing competitions?
Swimming was my first love for endurance athletics, and before I was a skier I swam competitively through elementary school and high school. Ultimately, though, I found that skiing was a great way to get a reprieve from doing swim laps, and I did not have a hard time trading in chlorinated pools for pristine, groomed, snowy trails. I also ran high school track, and dabbled in tennis for a summer league as a kid. I enjoy competing in triathlons, and I’d like to give alpine skiing and mountain biking a more serious try.
What do you do with any spare time at training camps or on race trips?
After the daily ritual of e-mailing is complete, I enjoy looking at things I’d like to buy online—mostly clothes—but I rarely actually purchase anything. And to keep my creative juices flowing, I like to sketch or make greetings cards, and I have ambitions of making hand-printed relief prints while on the road.
What does your diet consist of? Do you have a favorite pre-race dinner and
Like most athletes, I try to maintain a pretty balanced diet, though I’ve been known to consume more than my fair share of cereal. It’s so convenient and tasty! Crackiln’ Oat Bran is a particular favorite.
My pre race dinners are pretty standard. For supper I like a balanced meal of carbohydrates, protein, vegetables, and a bit of fat. I try not to eat anything out of the ordinary before a race. Breakfasts are also rather typical—oatmeal with fruit and walnuts, a bit of cinnamon for a little kick. Sometimes I add cottage cheese on top, or I like to have a hard-boiled or fried egg to add extra protein and satiety to my meal.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
In January 1994, I “survived” the Northridge Earthquake in Los Angeles, California, while on vacation with my family. And, according to Wikipedia, this natural disaster caused an estimated $20 billion in damage, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history! Yikes!
How do you spend your weeks off?
I like to go to the printmaking studio and make some artwork. It brings me back to my college days as an art student when I would spend many late nights in the studio working. It’s a different kind of work than ski training, but I consider it to be a similar endurance effort where the process is part of the fun!
What is the best race or workout you have ever done?
That’s hard to pinpoint one race or workout, but I’d say one of my best races was at U.S. Nationals at Soldier Hollow in 2006, my last year of eligibility in college. It was a 10k classic race, and the wax was very tricky that day. My coach, Bryan Fish, devised a concoction that worked at the very last minute before my start. I was freaking out in the starting pen, with only a few minutes until my start…without any skis! (I’m usually pretty tense before races, and was especially back in my college racing days, so this was one situation I was not well-prepared for). Our assistant wax tech came running up to me with two pairs of skis and told me to pick one, which I did randomly, and off I went in a complete stupor. I ended up with one of the best finishes of my skiing career!
What race events are in your plan for this season, and which race are you are looking forward to the most?
I will be competing in the Western SuperTour race series beginning in West Yellowstone, MT, and then our team is heading up to the NorAm races in Whistler, BC, depending on the snow. I will compete in the U.S. National Championships in Anchorage, AK, which I am very excited for because it’s a chance to see how I shake out amongst the top U.S. competition, plus I’ve never been to Anchorage. Afterwards I will head back to the Midwest for the SuperTour race series in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The infamous Birkie will be part of this race campaign, of course. I will also head to Fairbanks, AK for U.S. Distance Nationals for the final races of the season.
What else do you want to say?
I think I’ve already written a novel. I may have gotten carried away!