Tahoe, Where Everyone’s an Olympian

By: Jillian Johnson

​“We should go (biking, hiking, skiing, etc…) together!” - the famous line I’ve received from numerous friends and acquaintances. Followed immediately by, ​“I swear, I'm super low key. We will do something simple.”

​I consider myself to be fairly adventurous, somewhat feral, and in good shape. I exercise daily, go skiing often, and my job is literally to take people on outdoor excursions. Yet in Tahoe, I feel like a freaking loser. Everyone is always trying to out-do themselves - a silent competition with the world. Climbing the highest peak isn’t enough, you have to do it in the fastest time, up the gnarliest route and in the bitter cold of winter. What happened to just having fun?

​Well folks, I’ve learned my lesson. “I’m super low key” is a whole different ball game out here. The number of quiet tears I've shed, trying to keep up or being gently left in the dust, outweigh the enjoyable adventures. 

It’s called, “type two fun”. Participating in an activity while you suffer most of the way. It's hard, exhausting, and conditions may be terrible, but you can look back on it and say, “actually that was fun”. I'll pass.

​The impressive fact about this area is that there are a lot of Olympians. On more than one occasion I have joked, “I am going to the Olympics”, only to be humbled when someone starts discussing their Olympic experience. In Tahoe, kids start skiing at 1, mountain biking at 4, and are rock climbing in the womb. For someone who didn't grow up here, there's no catching up. 

​In a town full of remarkable athletes pushing yourself harder and farther is considered fun. It's important to remember though, you can be an incredible athlete and not be on their level. Though we may be few and far between, there are those of us that just want to go to the resort and ski groomers. I found friends who want to go backpacking for one night on a moderate route. Some folks, dare I say, even enjoy going for walks! We do exist.

​Remember this too, your Olympian friend who wants to take you mountain biking or backcountry skiing wants you to love it. Their enthusiasm is often what leads to the unraveling. It’s like they are teaching you how to drive when you haven't learned what a steering wheel is. Too much too fast.

When learning something new, it's sometimes best to just go out and play with someone on your level. For all the tears and insecurities I've had to endure learning how to navigate type two fun, I’ve also met so many amazing people. The community here is not just willing, but genuinely offering, to take you biking, skiing, or climbing. It can be overwhelming. Now, I push myself in my own way and I do it with people who are there for the journey - not just the destination.

​Personally, I think Tahoe’s Olympians are like wild animals - watch from a distance, learn from them, but don’t intrude on their territory. If you’re feeling disheartened and left behind, that's normal. Take your time. Find your people. Before you know it, you’ll be the one telling new friends, “Lets go skiing, I’m super low key”.


Jillian Johnson

Jill has been obsessing over the Sierra Mountains for the past 11 years. When she isn't sleeping under the stars, identifying trees or sniffing bark she is adding to her certifications in the healing arts. She enjoys spreading her passion for nature and its healing powers through guiding. If you live in Truckee she has probably pet your dog. If you own a cow she will be your best friend.

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