LAURA SPECTOR COMPETED at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics in biathlon, which requires skate skiing then shooting targets with a .22-caliber rifle. Now settling into life in Los Alamos, Spector enjoys northern New Mexico’s Nordic skiing scene. She’s dusting off that competitive spirit for ski marathons (26 miles, but on skate skis). She donated the prize purse from a 2022 race to Enchanted Forest’s recovery efforts.

MY PARENTS BROUGHT ME UP cross-country skiing. I started racing in middle school. My mom said, “Why don’t you join the team? If you don’t like it, you don’t have to keep doing it.” It was everything that cross-country racing at that age should be—it was just fun. Then I started placing well.

I’d tried biathlon at a summer camp in Lake Placid, New York. What I really enjoyed then was combining multiple sports. As a high school senior, I qualified for Biathlon Junior World Championships and for Nordic Junior World Ski Championships and went to both. It was probably more racing than I needed, but it was fun.

Biathlon training is not just what you do outside when you’re at a shooting range or on your roller skis. You also spend a lot of time indoors doing what they call dry firing, where you take your rifle—no bullets, just your rifle—and a piece of paper with five black dots, and you tape it to a wall and aim at those dots. You teach your body some muscle memory and how to aim on the target, how to relax your breathing, how to move from one target to another. It’s also good training for getting the rifle off your back and into position and strengthening the muscles that hold the rifle in position. The stronger you are, the less likely you are to shake when you come into the shooting range and your body’s already a little bit tired.

New Mexico is home to several ski resorts including Taos Ski Area. Photograph courtesy of Raisa Nastukova/Unsplash.

The Olympics is overwhelming in many ways. You show up and the first thing you do is get all your gear—all your clothing for opening ceremonies, for daily wear, and your race suit. Everything. I think I had four duffel bags of clothes. But once you get out on the track—aside from seeing the Olympic rings along the course, which is pretty exhilarating—it still just feels like any other race.

We came to New Mexico because my husband took a job at Los Alamos National Laboratory. I work for a biotech company in Santa Fe. We love Los Alamos. If you just shimmy down the canyon, you’re right on the trail system, which is such a treat. With groomed cross-country skiing 15 minutes from town, we go out skiing during the week with headlamps for an hour after work. One of the great things about skiing is being part of the community.

Read more: After devastating winds raged across Red River’s Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area, its owners rallied helpers, weekend after weekend. They fixed the trails, kept hope alive, and even found an inspiring upside to all those downed trees.