For Allison Jones there is no such thing as an off season. For the two sport athlete her year is divided in two. April through September could be called the season of cycling, while October through March is, indeed, ski season.
Jones is never left waiting for a major competition to prepare for. Less than two years ago she won a silver medal in the individual time trial at the Beijing Parlaympic Games, her fourth Paralympic medal, to go along with two silvers from Salt Lake City and one gold from Torino. Now she is back in the Parlaympic Winter Games, this time on the mountains of Whistler. She took fifth in the slalom, her first event, but still has four more chances to add to her Paralympic medal collection.
Jones will be only 26 years old in May, but is competing in her fifth Paralympic Games, making it a Paralympic competition every other year since she was 17.
Skiing was Jones' first love. She began skiing when she was five after she moved with her family from Texas to Colorado. When she was eight she began racing, and when she was 16 she moved to Winter Park, Colorado to finish high school so she could train full time at the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD).
It was also around that time that Jones began cycling. In 1998 Jones took a trip to Colorado Springs to watch what she assumed was a local cycling race for athletes with physical disabilities. The race was in fact the 1998 Para-cycling World Championships. After watching the athleticism of the cyclists Jones knew, "I want to do that."
Two years later, Jones was a two-sport athlete, spending her summers on a bike and winters on the snow. In 2002 she raced in her first World Championships for cycling as well as skied in her first Paralympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Jones won two silver medals in the super G and giant slalom.
Jones feels like the two sports compliment each other nicely.
"They help in the early season of both," she said during a phone interview. "To go from cycling to skiing I bring a lot of stamina to the early season when you need a lot of time on the hill, a lot of hours. I have all the endurance, so I can train all day. From skiing to cycling I bring the strength in. I can do great in the sprints right off the bat."
Scheduling is a huge factor in making sure she does not set herself back in one sport because of the other.
"I don't try to (cycle) race in November, and I'm not trying to ski down in Chile in the summer," she said.
The way her year usually works Jones has plenty of time to regain her endurance in the spring before a big cycling event and she leaves herself at least a month in the fall to regain strength in the weight room before jumping into ski season. In eight years of competing as a dual sport athlete she has only had one scheduling hiccup.
"This (past) summer was the perfect example of complication in sport," said Jones.
In a stretch of a month and a half Jones had two 14 day ski camps, each camp ending before a national championships for cycling, the first before track nationals and the second before road.
"(At track nationals) my sprint was ok, but my 3k (pursuit) fell apart. We had a realization of how much skiing takes an effect on the cycling and tried to adjust that for the time trial (at road nationals)," Jones said.
On the road, she managed to do "ok" in the time trial but said it felt brutal.
"It was one that I didn't do what I knew I could do. And it was definitely worse than what I did at the end of the year when I had a few months solid on the bike."
At the end of the year Jones took home two silver medals at the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships in the time trial and road race. Four months later Jones was standing on the podium again for skiing, taking a silver medal each in the first two stops of the IPC World Cup races.
With a resumé that is longer than a shopping list for a family of seven, Jones is far from ready to stop. She still wants a gold medal in cycling, and she is still having fun skiing.
"This year I've stepped up my game (in skiing) in disciplines that I didn't know I could step up in," said Jones. "When I start to see those gains again that's when I'm having fun. I will continue to do this as long as I'm having fun."