On the ice, Joannie Rochette has always been a frequent flyer. The Montreal-born figure skater jumped and twirled her way to six Canadian national championships, a silver medal at the world championships, and a bronze medal at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Off the ice, Rochette, 27, is a frequent flyer too: “Usually, I accumulate 85,000 to 115,000 miles a year,” she says.

Flying high

With her busy schedule, Rochette is an avid collector of reward miles. She has always used the miles she racks up for more travel, never for merchandise.

With her busy schedule, Rochette is an avid collector of reward miles. She started in 2001 at her coach’s suggestion, when Rochette was at the junior level in skating. She has always used the miles she racks up for more travel, never for merchandise.

“The figure skating business is mainly in Asia now, so I travel to Japan, China and Korea about four times a year. In addition, we have a tour in the U.S. and Canada,” says Rochette. “I basically live out of my suitcase the whole year, even when I’m at home.”

New records

Being on the road so much has helped Rochette develop a few skills. “Since we change hotels often during tours, I’m really good at packing and unpacking in record time.”

With so many new places and faces on her agenda, Rochette also adjusts to change well. “I’ve learned to adapt to new situations and people very quickly.”

Bringing family to competitions

Along with easing her own travels, Rochette has used her miles to bring family to watch her skate.  That’s how her parents, Therese and Normand, were able to see her compete at her first Olympics, in 2006 in Turin, Italy. She also flew them into Vancouver in 2010.

“It was great to be able to take care of the flights for them, because they weren’t used to traveling, and it was a busy travel period during the Olympics.”

Facing adversity

The 2010 Olympics proved fateful for Rochette. She was practicing for the short program when she found out that her mother, 55, had died of a heart attack shortly after arriving in Vancouver.

Rochette chose to remain in the competition and skate in her mother’s honour. After two emotional performances, she had won an Olympic medal — one she would place on her mother’s casket at the funeral.

At the closing ceremony, Rochette carried the Canadian flag. She was also the co-winner of the inaugural Terry Fox Award, given to an Olympic athlete who embodied Fox’s values of determination and humility in the face of adversity.

The Canadian Press named Rochette the Female Athlete of the Year. Later, she played a lead role in the I Heart Mom campaign, to raise awareness of heart disease for women and raise funds for the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

Freedom and flexibility

“Usually, I accumulate 85,000 to 115,000 miles a year.”

With Rochette’s heavy travel, one of the greatest rewards of all is time off.  As she says, “my favourite place is home.  If I could go a month without traveling, that would be a great month!”

Yet she appreciates the freedom she gets from collecting miles.  As a winter sport athlete, Rochette has been to many cold weather countries.  She has used Aeroplan reward miles for vacations to warmer destinations, including Hawaii and Las Vegas. Among other spots on her wish list: Tahiti, Maldives, Bora Bora and Bali.

Winging it

Given Rochette’s schedule, the miles she collects provide flexibility too. Skating season lasts from October to June, and Rochette is glad to be able to wing some of her travel plans.

“Sometimes, I’ll decide to fly home an hour before the flight leaves. I’ll book it on my phone, in the cab on my way to the airport. I love how easy it is, and it allows me to be unpredictable.”