Ripton teen nominated to join U.S. ski team
RIPTON — Abi Jewett of Ripton started ski racing at age 10, after several years of “ripping around with friends” at Middlebury Snow Bowl. The 18-year-old will soon be joining a new group of friends to “rip around” with on some much bigger mountains.
Last week the United States Ski Team nominated Jewett as one of 41 members of the official American Alpine ski racing team that will represent the country in international competitions. With the nomination, Jewett, who just graduated from Green Mountain Valley School this past Saturday, will get elite coaching, have access to sport science and sports medicine resources, and be afforded the opportunity to train at the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Center of Excellence.
Speaking with the nonchalance expected in an athlete who plummets down icy ski slopes up to 80 mph, Jewett expressed her excitement at the nomination pretty simply.
“It’s been something I was working toward for a long time,” she said.
Jewett was nominated for the C Team, and is one of only nine new skiers nominated to the U.S. Team. Two other Vermonters were also among the 41. Veteran Ryan Cochran-Siegle, 26, of Starksboro was nominated to the B Team and newcomer Ben Ritchie of Waitsfield was named to the Development Team. And, of course, Burke Mountain Academy grad Mikaela Shiffrin, who lives in Colorado, is nominated for the A Team. An official team roster will be announced in the fall.
“Ski racing is Vermont’s sport,” said Jewett’s father, Willem. “I’ve always loved that our little state sends these young kids, ambassadors out to the world, competing on the world stage and representing Vermont.”
Abi Jewett learned to ski at the Middlebury Snow Bowl, and enrolled at GMVS, a ski school, in seventh grade. Willem Jewett recalled Abi’s first race season.
“I had to outfit her three different times,” he said. “She’d snowboarded the year before, and within a week decided she wanted to ski. A week later, she wanted to ski race.”
From her very first race, which took place about seven minutes from the house she grew up in, Abi stood out for her athleticism and passion for the sport. She asked her parents if she could join the Middlebury Ski Club. According to Willem, the club’s good coaching and the Snow Bowl’s steep terrain breed good skiers.
“For young kids, those big (Giant Slalom) rolls on the Allen (Trail) have a quick turnaround,” he said. “It’s steep, but they learn to love it. That trains good technique.”
The Allen must have made an impact on Abi because her favorite discipline is Giant Slalom, which involves skiing through gates set further apart than in a slalom race, but closer together than in Super G.
“It’s cool because you’re moving at high speed, but it’s really technical skiing,” she told the Independent.
Abi said it was her coaches and community at GMVS made her the skier she is today.
“I am so fortunate to have been able to go there,” she said. “If you really want to reach your full potential, you have to put everything into it.”
That said, her favorite place to ski in Vermont is still the Middlebury Snow Bowl, “because it’s home.”
On the night before a race, Abi said she studies tapes of herself and skiers she admires skiing in the event she’s about to compete in.
“I work on visualizing the course and make a plan.”
On race day, she combats her nerves by focusing her attention on one or two objectives per event.
“It’s brutal to watch your kid race,” Willem confessed.
The former collegiate ski racer said he’s used to watching his daughter move at elevated speeds, but that “it’s a tough sport and I know how hard she works … you can’t make errors in ski racing. Recovery is slow. So at each turn, you’re watching, just hoping everything stays on course.”
When she races in Vermont, Willem likes to volunteer for race crew to keep himself distracted and “stay out of her way.”
When she’s not skiing, Abi likes to hike in the Green Mountains. In the summer, she cross trains by road biking. She started mountain bike racing last summer.
“I have a need for speed. I think I might be a little bit of an adrenaline junky,” she said.
Abi said she is excited for the opportunity to travel internationally with the U.S. Ski Team. She was one of eight women selected to compete in the Alpine Junior World Ski Championships in Davos, Switzerland, this past January. That was her first time competing outside of the US. Her dad woke up at 3 in the morning to watch the live stream from Ripton, and hopes to see her compete live next year.
So far, ski racing has taken Abi to Patagonia, Norway, Sweden, Austria and Germany. She’ll spend this summer training in Park City, Utah.
“I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to go to those places,” Abi said. “But I love home. I love Vermont. It will probably always be my favorite place in the world.”
Her US Ski Team nomination means she won’t be heading to Dartmouth College until after her ski tour. Jewett says she’s interested in political science and government, and sees herself being a politician or getting a law degree — once she’s done competing on the international ski racing circuit.
Abi said she’ll miss Ripton but is excited for what’s ahead, while not forgetting where she’s come from.
“It’s a great place and community to come home to.”
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