Ripton’s Abi Jewett shares the limelight with World Cup’s top skiers
KILLINGTON — This past Sunday, Abi Jewett, an 18-year-old Vermonter from Ripton, stood right next to Mikaela Shiffrin on the winners’ stage at the Killington World Cup. For the third year in a row, Killington Resort hosted the third of 22 international stops in skiing’s most elite competition and put on two races last weekend: a giant slalom on Saturday and a slalom race on Sunday.
For Shiffrin, 23, it marked her 45th slalom World Cup win, putting her within two wins of the all-time women’s slalom record and earning her $45,000. For Jewett, 18, it was her first World Cup race and her first major race with the U.S. Ski Team, a team she was named to just this past month.
In the grandstands, more than 14,000 people were cheering. The band Guster, led by Burlington local Ryan Miller, played from a stage in a festival-style tent village set up on snow. Flags waved, recognizing the ski racers who came from 18 countries, including New Zealand and Japan.
As NBC announcer Doug Lewis interviewed Mikaela, her mother, Ellen Shiffrin rounded up Jewett and the rest of the American team to come stand with Shiffrin on stage for photos.
Like Jewett, the first native Vermonter to compete at the Killington World Cup, Lewis was born in Middlebury and went to the Green Mountain Valley School before joining the U.S. Ski Team. He was the bronze medalist in downhill at the 1985 World Championships in Italy.
“It’s awesome to see Abi — our first true Vermonter — competing here,” he said.
“I’m really proud of all the American women,” Shiffrin told Lewis. For the first time in many years, three Americans made the top 30 after the first run of Sunday’s slalom race, earning them a second run and a chance to earn World Cup points.
Among them was University of Vermont sophomore Paula Moltzan, who finished her first slalom run in 28th place, but then blazed through the second run with the fourth fastest time to finish 17th overall.
MORE THAN 30,000 fans attended the two-day World Cup events held in Killington this past weekend, which represents one of the largest crowds on the women’s World Cup tour. Photo by Alex Klein
“I can’t believe it, I think this is a huge turning point for me,” said Moltzan, whose best finish to date was 20th at the World Championships in 2015.
After her second run, Moltzan, a biology major, jumped up and down as she saw the results and then went to hug her UVM teammate and college buddy Laurence St. Germain. St. Germain, who skis on the Canadian national team and competed in the 2018 Olympics, finished the slalom in 14th. Another American, Nina O’Brien, a graduate of Burke Mountain Academy, earned her first World Cup points, finishing 23rd.
For Jewett, who started racing with the Middlebury Ski Club when she was 10 and graduated from Waitsfield’s Green Mountain Valley School last spring, it was like stepping from a high school play onto a Broadway stage.
“I was really nervous going into my first run,” said Jewett, who raced in Saturday’s giant slalom race. While the crowds loved the bright sunshine and warm weather, for Jewett, who started 61st of 66 racers, the warm weather meant that as racer after racer zoomed down the course, ruts built up on the Superstar trail.
“I just wanted to finish and ski well but this being my first World Cup, I was a little cautious,” Jewett said as she picked up her skis in the finish area. Skiing carefully, Jewett, the youngest of the finishers, raced down the steep pitches and through the 38 turning gates in just under a minute, finishing in 59.70.
Federica Brignone, the Italian who won both the first run and the overall giant slalom, sped down the 600-foot vertical drop in 54.08. Shiffrin did it in 54.38. To get a sense of how close the racing was, Shiffrin finished that first run sixth, and ended up fourth overall after her second run, behind Brignone, Austria’s Stefanie Brunner and Norway’s Ragnhild Mowickel.
“Those women are going 40 to 45 mph down that hill,” said Killian Albrecht, Shiffin’s manager, as he watched the women race.
RIPTON NATIVE Abi Jewett speeds down Killingtons giant slalom course on the Superstar trail in her first World Cup race this past Saturday. Photo by Alex Klein
Jewett might not have been going that fast, but she also finished the course, which put her ahead of five other women who either crashed or missed a gate.
After the race, at a party thrown by the Kelly Brush Foundation, Jean Cherouny, Jewett’s mother, who raced at Burke Academy, said Abi was headed to Panorama, British Columbia, for another race next week.
“It’s not a World Cup so it will give her a chance to get back toward the top of the pack.” Cherouny, a Middlebury-based artist, went on to ski race at UVM.
Jewett’s father, Willem, served in the Vermont House for 14 years, representing the Addison-2 district. He’s also a competitive bike racer who has placed in the top 10 in the master’s division (over 50) for the Green Mountain Stage Race and finished second of more than 70 in the master’s division of 2017 Leadville 100, a grueling 100-mile mountain bike race in Colorado.
When asked where she gets her competitive spirit, Abi doesn’t hesitate: “From my dad — he’s always pushed me to do better, and he still beats me on a bike.”
Yes, but she can beat him — and many others now — on skis.
WORLD CUP RESULTS
Saturday-Giant Slalom: 1. Federica Brignone, ITA 2. Stefanie Brunner, AUT 3. Ragnhild Mowinckel, NOR 4. Mikaela Shiffrin, USA. 5. Tessa Worley, FRA
Sunday-Slalom: 1. Mikaela Shiffrin, USA 2. Petra Vhlova, SLK. 3. Frida Hansdotter, SWE 4. Bernadett Schild, AUT 5. Michelle Gisin, FRA. US finishers: 17. Paula Moltzan, USA, 23. Nina O’Brien, USA.