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.”

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