The coronavirus pandemic has interrupted the daily lives of everyone on the planet. For professional skiers, the premature end of ski season resulted in canceled film projects, expeditions put on hold, and a sudden decrease of work.
To find out how the athletes leading our sport are coping with the pandemic and hear what they are doing to stay healthy and sane, we’re catching up with a few of them in a five-part interview series rolling out this week.
Former POWDER intern Drew Petersen is a Salt Lake City, Utah-based skier sponsored by Salomon and Hestra. Before the widespread stay-at-home measures were put into place, he relocated to his hometown of Silverthorne, Colorado, to quarantine with his parents. Always one for optimism, Petersen has been doing his part to flatten the curve while still nurturing his own mental and physical wellbeing at home.
POWDER: Take me through the lead-up to the current global crisis. What were you doing, what were your goals, and when did it all come to a standstill?
Petersen: I fractured my tibial plateau at the beginning of February, so I’ve actually been hurt for eight weeks now. During that timeframe, I was focused on rehabbing and getting back on snow. I actually did get back out on skis, took a few groomer laps at Alta to test it out, but my goal in coming back was a film I was working on.
Then, over the course of a week, I went from focusing on quick rehab to, ‘Well, I guess not.’ There are bigger problems at hand. When everything came to a halt, we gained some perspective; skiing, or a film project, or our own trials and tribulations are small compared to the grand scheme of things.
What’s your quarantine situation like at home with your family in Silverthorne?
I’ve been isolating for 16 days now. I’m grateful to be here and wake up to the mountains every day. I will admit that I’m just as bored as everyone else, sleeping in a little too much and looking at my phone more than I’d like to, but I give myself some grace with that.
What are you doing to keep yourself busy?
I’m working out most days, I bought some weights at a secondhand sports store, got myself a pretty sweet home gym setup using a cooler as a weight bench and tying resistance bands to an aspen tree.
Otherwise I’ve been binge watching “Love Is Bind” on Netflix, and spending time reading and writing. In a way, it’s nice to have this down time to reflect and gain some perspective on life as a whole.
Are isolation and grim news updates wearing on you? How have you been dealing with the subsequent anxiety?
I’ve been struggling with all of this—with the isolation and the anxiety that comes with the state of the world and flood of news, and I have some mental health issues, too. To anybody else out there dealing with their own mental health struggles, just know that you’re not alone.
I keep a gratitude journal where I write 10 things every day that I’m grateful for, they range from how good a cookie tastes to how beautiful the mountains are for my health. I also just scheduled a Skype meeting with my therapist. A lot of people are dealing with this right now and especially in our ski community and mountain towns. Sometimes we don’t talk about it.
Summit County, where you are, is a COVID-19 hotbed in Colorado, prone to community spread like many ski towns. County officials and residents have been vocal asking non-locals to refrain from coming up there. Are people listening?
All of the problems get compounded in a community this small with a hospital this small.
Summit County is a really popular place, I’m pretty sure they had the first confirmed coronavirus case in Colorado and it’s a product of all of the ski areas and the demand to come up here. [Editor’s note: a Summit County visitor who had recently traveled to Italy was the first person to test positive for coronavirus in Colorado on March 5.)
I really haven’t left my house so I’m not sure what’s happening down in town, but I think that people are heeding the warnings fairly well and I’m really grateful to see the outsiders heeding that advice, too.
In the past six days, there have been 49 human triggered avalanches with 17 people being caught and carried in the Salt Lake area mountains where you live and ski. What’s your reaction to that?
My stance on skiing right now is that this is just not the time to go. The mountains will be there when all of this blows over. [Skiing] is so insignificant compared to what the rest of the world and people in the healthcare industry are dealing with.
It’s our responsibility to do our part and that means staying home. Skiing is a lifestyle sport that’s totally built upon passion and now it’s time to take all of that passion for skiing and channel it into compassion for the world at large.
Nobody goes out into the backcountry or drops into a slope expecting an avalanche. In the mountains, there are so many variables we can’t manage. All we can do is assess [the risk]. There were some really close calls around Salt Lake, fortunately no one was injured, but it shows that we’re not in control out there.
You recently shared that you’re engaging in Protect Our Winters’ Crush It For Climate initiative. Why is it important for you to continue to focus on climate action during this time?
Crush It For Climate is an initiative that POW was doing for the month of March. They asked us to come up with our own challenges to help celebrate the earth and the wild places that we love to play in, and in doing so, build our motivation to protect them.
I’m lifting weights in the driveway or I’ll ride my bike on the trainer outside on the deck. Even in this time when we’re staying at home, it’s still important to stay connected to the outdoors.
Just like this pandemic, we’re all in this climate crisis together. Just because one problem dominates the headlines and our mental space, it doesn’t erase the other issues that we face.
If you could be quarantined with any celebrity in the world, who would you choose and why?
I’m going to go with Mikaela Shiffrin, because I’ve had a crush on her pretty much forever. We’re pretty similar in age and she’s in Vail, just over the pass, and I think something could work there.