Xaverian Brothers alpine skier Will Bertram always has a set goal before he hits the slopes for a race.
And that goal for the 15-year-old is simple.
“I just want to finish as fast as possible,” said Bertram. “That is my objective. My mind goes right to the finish.”
Bertram’s commitment to high-speed finishes has let the skier, now in his first high school year at the Westwood school, compile an impressive early record. He is ranked fifth in the competitive Mass. Bay Ski League East, a league in which he routinely passes older opponents. As his team heads into the state tournament March 6, he’s its top skier.
The sport is hardly new to Bertram: He put on his first pair of skis at the age of three, according to his father, Paul. Paul Bertram knew early on that his son had something special on skis.
“It was non-competitive for Will at first,” said the elder Bertram. “It was just for fun. Then he entered a [junior] tournament at the age of 12, and he ended up winning the tournament. The rest is history.”
Twelve years since first donning skis, Bertram is now a developed competitor completely invested in the sport.
Besides racing for Xaverian Brothers, Bertram has been challenging himself every weekend in Waterville Valley, N.H. with his club team, the Black and Blue Trail Smashers.
But his training hardly stops there. For three weeks each summer since turning seven, he’s been working with a private coach in the Andes Mountains alongside competitors in national ski teams who often make it to the Winter Olympics. During Thanksgiving week every year, he spends his time skiing in Colorado.
“The training gets him up to speed for the season,” said Paul Bertram. “It’s a great way to get more time on snow so he’s ready to compete.”
A love of skiing runs in the family. Both his parents ski for the fun of it, and his brother, Chris, is a first-year skier on the Boston College team. Paul Bertram said Will’s long-term goal is to follow in his brother’s footsteps.
Mike Davis, now in his tenth year as the Xaverian Brothers coach, noted the younger Bertram’s absolute dedication to the sport early on. Davis recruited Bertram when was only in the seventh grade. He was first placed on the junior varsity team, but he quickly moved up after top-place finishes in his first two races. Bertram immediately played a key role on that 2016 team, which won the program’s second state championship.
“He consistently gets better and better,” said Davis. “He’s always trying to improve. He’s a top-tier skier and he is really impressive at his age.’’
His older teammates recognize Bertram’s skill and passion.
Sophomore Cameron Tullie, the team’s co-captain, practices with him at Waterville Valley, and said he’s never seen anyone with as much expertise at such a young age.
“I’ve never seen him fall or mess up in any of his runs,” said Tullie. “He always skis extremely consistent. He is always improving and is really qualified. I think he will go far in the state tournament.”
Junior co-captain Will Zeller said Betram actually teaches his teammates.
“He is younger than most of us but helps us in every way.” said Zeller. “He is always giving other skiers tips to help improve times.”
After capturing that state championship two years ago, the team bid farewell to three top-20 finishers. This year’s squad has only five juniors and no seniors.
“We’re a very young team,” said Davis. “But we have some great skiers that are motivated and dedicated to the sport.”
Despite its relative youth, the team ranks second in the league heading into the tourney, trailing behind defending champions Marblehead.
“We’re decent right now,” said Bertram. “But in order to beat the best, we have to perform better.”
Even with his devotion to year-round training, Bertram said the fact that his body is still not fully developed puts him at a disadvantage against older teens.
“It’s tough,” he said. “It’s not an experience issue, because I’ve been skiing for as long as most of the other skiers. I’m just underdeveloped since I’m only fifteen, and the top skiers are older and more developed. So it gives them the advantage of skiing faster.”
But physical limitations or not, Betram said the mental preparation his coach constantly provides gives him a shot to place first in the slalom race at the state championship.
“Coach Davis helps me mentally before I go down the slopes,” said Bertram. “He always keeps me in good spirits before and after races.”Andrew Higginbottom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.