Can the Mayo Clinic Make You a Better Skier?
feet, down to a few hundred feet above the trees. “By the time the flight is over, I pretty much have it set in my mind,” he says. He then creates a pencil sketch. After it’s approved, he projects the sketch onto a 30-by-40-inch illustrator board and paints in the details with watercolors. The resort scans the art and prints the trail maps.
Niehues keeps the original art and has more than 300 illustrations in storage. If a resort has a terrain expansion or other changes, he pulls out the original piece and updates it. Back in the 1990s, resorts would print posters from his maps. Now they’re increasingly using satellite imagery and computeraided design to produce them.
Niehaus does use Photoshop to tweak his work, but he’s passionate about the power of old-fashioned art. “A hand-drawn image is something that skiers can dream by,” he says. “That’s not the case with a computergenerated piece of crap.”
Many resorts are using maps he painted decades ago, just updated. “I’ve painted myself out of my field,” he says. “I could be the last artist to paint trail maps by hand—but I hope not.”
At 70, and now semiretired in Loveland, Colo., he’s at peace with that. Niehues takes on a few choice jobs, such as when Vail Resorts merged Canyons with Park City Mountain Resort. He’s also mentoring an artist in hopes his art doesn’t retire with him.
With a few trail maps spread out on a desk in front of him, Niehues traces a run on the Deer Valley map with an index finger. “I want people to look at a map and say, ‘ This is where I fell!’ ‘ This is where we found great powder!’” he says. “There aren’t a lot of artists who can say that people sit down with their art and a beer and reminisce.” ● BY SUSAN REIFER RYAN earner like the NBA’s Kevin Durant or a ski champion like Mikaela Shiffrin—a squad of sports medicine, science, and performance experts would be part of your personal team. Their job: to analyze you head to toe.
Is your right leg nine percent stronger than your left? Does the alignment of your pelvis and hip joints shift a few degrees off kilter when you decelerate while fatigued? Your performance team would know (thanks in no small part to quickly evolving technologies) and apply sports science’s latest developments in a customized program so you can reach your peak in your specific sport while also minimizing your chances of injury. It’s a bit like Dr. Frankenstein meeting the Bionic Man at CrossFit.
Or if you were a slightly soft-around-themiddle mortal, you could swing by the Mayo Clinic, sign up for a Performance Training program, and receive a weekend-warrior version of the superstar treatment. “You can take the same principles that work for the elite athlete and apply it to the non-elite athlete,” says Jonathan Finnoff, 47, medical
director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center in downtown Minneapolis. “It doesn’t matter whether it is somebody whose performance goals are to walk their dog a mile each evening or somebody who wants to be a World Cup skier.”
Of course, most of us fall somewhere in between. A few times per week, we run, bike, or hit the gym. The problem, say sports scientists, is that while you’re busy strengthening your quads, you’re likely also strengthening some existing dysfunction. You could wind up stronger in certain places yet not optimized for either your own body or the demands of your sport.
To the rescue come Mayo Sports and similar sports-science facilities. Opened in 2014, Mayo Sports weds experts in sports medicine, psychology, and biomechanics (Mayo Clinic staff) with non-medical experts in sports conditioning and nutrition (staff from Exos, a fitness company whose clients include U.S. Special Forces and NFL players). A new area of specialization focuses on how to prevent injuries—with the sci-fi-sounding name “prehab.”