JACKSON - Jess McMillan is leaving nothing to chance.
That's why one of the changes she made to her off-season agenda was a simple matter of logistics. McMillan, one of Jackson Hole's top professional skiers, plans to arrive at the Freeride World Tour in Russia a little early. Like five days early.
"I just want to get there early in case something happens," she said.
Last year, McMillan learned that strange things can happen. Like having someone lose your skis.
McMillan was skiing well, and leading the Freeride World Tour after two events. But McMillan's luggage, including her skis, did not arrive with her on the flight to the third stop on the tour, forcing her to compete with a pair of rented skis. It obviously wasn't the same.
"I prereleased on my first air," she said. "It was a little frustrating."
McMillan said her problems with the rented skis were more technical than mental.
"I didn't choose a different line because of that," she said. "The skis just didn't hold up."
It was a tough break for McMillan. She eventually finished second on the tour, a result she clearly hasn't forgotten. However, she refuses to blame the second-place finish on her skis, even though that would be an easy way out.
"It was just one of those things," she said. "It was disappointing to finish second on the tour. This year, the goal is to win it."
McMillan, 30, is accustomed to winning. The Jackson native was a two-time state champion skier at Jackson Hole High School, and won the 2007 freeskiing world championship and the 2007 U.S. National Championship.
Last year's second-place finish on the Freeride World Tour has left her hungry for redemption. This offseason, she's tweaked everything, from her workout regime to her travel schedule.
McMillan spent six weeks during the off-season skiing in Las Lenas, Argentina. It snowed almost every day she was there.
Now at her home in Kelly, Wyo., McMillan is going through a more strenuous training program. She lifts weights three days a week, does Pilates, yoga and 45 minutes of cardiovascular training per day.
"In the past, I've always (worked out), but not this intense," she said. "It was more like three days a week. The Pilates have helped as far as the stability muscles that all of us forget about as skiers.
"I'm just trying to get strong and get in shape mentally and physically."
McMillan will leave for the Freeride World Tour in the middle of January. The tour begins in Sochi, Russia, on Jan. 20. Other stops are Squaw Valley, Calif. (Feb. 27),
Tignes, France (March 8), and Verbier, Switzerland (March 20).
The World Tour pays for skiers' expenses, with the exception of airfare. But McMillan gets plenty of help from her sponsors, which include Cloudveil, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Volkl skis, Tecnica boots, Marker bindings, Backcountry.com, Dakine and Scott goggles.
McMillan's second-place finish a year ago earned her an automatic berth onto this year's tour. And she clearly hasn't forgotten how last season ended.
"I'm fired up," she said. "I really didn't like being second."
McMillan said she will not participate in International Free Skiers Association events due to the strain of traveling. She does, however, have plans to travel to Japan in early February to film a movie with Sweetgrass Productions, of Colorado.
In all, McMillan is excited about the upcoming season. And she's made her top priority very clear: to win the Freeride World Tour.
"It would be achieving a goal," she said, "and proving to myself and others I can do it."