John G. Mabanglo/EPA
Alice Merryweather has a personal journal, although she doesn’t write in it a whole lot. It’s actually kind of a secret. Her mother, Liz, didn’t even know about it.
But in early March, the night before she was to race the downhill at the FIS Junior World Ski Championships in Are, Sweden, something compelled her to make an entry.
“I have written two pages in it and I’ve had the thing for two years,” Merryweather said. “So I wrote in it I feel really confident and everything comes down to tomorrow. Everything that I’ve worked for and everything that I’ve wanted, and I feel ready for it. Tomorrow is going to be my day.”
She won, by two-hundreths of a second.
“It was such a dream come true. I’d always wanted — I’d been at big races where they play the national anthem for the winner — to hear the US national anthem and to be on top of the podium was surreal. It was such a rush of emotions,” she said.
It was a highlight to what had already been an impressive season for the 20-year-old from Hingham, Mass. Now, she’s poised for the next step.
A series of strong finishes in December, including three straight second-place finishes in Canada, helped propel her to the North American Cup downhill championship. She also raced in some speed events on the European Cup circuit, another high-level training ground.
“That was against some pretty tough competitors, some pretty good skiers in the world that are showing up in the World Cup. She was skiing at a level that was World Cup level, which was pretty cool,” said Kris Shampenny, a US ski team coach who has worked with Merryweather the past two seasons.
The Nor-Am Cup is one of the top competition circuits for developing ski racers, and winning the season title earned Merryweather a starting spot in all of next season’s World Cup downhills.
So how did she get here? It all started on the slopes of Attitash Mountain in New Hampshire.
Liz Merryweather, a part-time lawyer, and her husband, Hugh, the chief financial officer at Spartan Race, were both skiers and they introduced their children to the sport via frequent trips to the White Mountains. Alice, her older brother, Simon, and a cousin, Peter Rice, spent their days zooming all over Attitash.
“When we first started skiing we started out on the main trails, but pretty quickly we got bored of that and we would go around and ski in the woods or find other ways to make it more interesting, and I think learning to ski that way and not sort of being racers from the first time we put skis on really fostered a love of skiing beyond just the competitive side,” said Simon Merryweather, who was a captain of Harvard’s ski team and now works at a private equity firm in Boston.
Then they got involved in racing, first in weekend NASTAR races, then as part of Attitash’s race team.
“Her race results were consistently good, originally just kind of in the Mount Washington valley and then as she got older it was statewide and then it became regionwide and she was still doing very well,” Liz Merryweather said. “And her passion for the sport had grown, too, she’d fallen in love with it and was very dedicated to be the best that she could. At that point we realized we needed to give her the opportunity to see what she could do.”
Simon Merryweather also knew at an early age how competitive his sister was. Once, he qualified for a national event in Park City, Utah, so the whole family went with him.
“I was super-bitter because I didn’t qualify,” Alice said. “So we went out to Park City and met a bunch of ski stars — Picabo Street and Bode Miller — and I was like why didn’t I qualify for this? I was out there racing NASTAR too.”
Simon noticed her demeanor.
“It was so clear how jealous she was that I had the opportunity to race, how badly she wanted to be part of that,” Simon said.
The Stratton Mountain School in Vermont was the next stop for Alice, a place where she could attend high school and also train every day instead of only on weekends. She made the US ski team immediately after graduating, first as a member of the D-level team in 2015-16, then on the C team this season. Next year she’ll be on the B team, Shampenny said.
“I’m going to miss working with her. I’ll still get to work with her a little bit, but that’s a good group and that’s where she needs to be,” Shampenny said.
When she’s not competing or doing offseason training with the US ski team in Park City or at camps in Chile or New Zealand, Alice is drawn to pursuits that are considerably less intense. She likes board games, or playing the piano, or catching small turtles while kayaking in the pond near her home in Hingham.
But on the slopes, the competitor emerges. She races in all four disciplines, but prefers the speed events of super-G and downhill.
“I’m not afraid of the speeds. I enjoy that rush of adrenaline you get when you’re in the air or going upward of 80 miles an hour. I think it takes a special type of skier to really appreciate that,” she said.
She’s also envisioned her future.
“Over the next four or five years I see myself eventually being on the podium at World Cups and hopefully at the Olympics someday,” she said.
Her journal is going to be along for the ride. Will she write in it more frequently?
“I think so, I think that’s the way to go,” she said.
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