Updated: Nov. 24: Abi Jewett did her first World Cup race at Killington, starting in the giant slalom.
“The course was perfect,” Abi Jewett said, still out of breath from her first World Cup run ever. The 18-year-old graduate of the Green Mountain Valley School had forerun this course at last year’s Killington World Cup. Even though she had started 61st, second to last, she said “the snow was still really good, no ruts.” Nervous in her first World Cup, she skied conservatively, finishing 61st.
Not bad for a kid who only started ski racing 8 years ago.
On May 25, Jewett, who lives in Ripton, Vt. found out she was nominated to be a member of the US Ski Team.
When asked what that was like, the 18-year-old said simply, “It’s been something I was working toward for a long time.”
In mid-November, Jewett was named as an official member of the Alpine C Team. In September, Jewett had said racing in the World Cup this season was a big goal of hers. “I would feel very honored to race my first World Cup in my home state in front of family and friends, but have to earn my spot first.” In early November, she earned the opportunity to compete in Giant Slalom at a qualifying time trial at Copper Mountain.
Jewett learned to ski at the Middlebury Snow Bowl, but enrolled at Waitsfield’s Green Mountain Valley School starting in seventh grade. She graduated from GMVS on June 2, and was accepted early decision to Dartmouth this spring.
Most skiers who make the US Ski Team spend a season on the Development Team. Jewett bypassed the D Team altogether, making the Alpine C Team with her first nomination.
Jewett started racing at age ten, after several years of “ripping around with friends” at Middlebury Snow Bowl.
Abi’s father, Willem Jewett, served as State Representative for Addison-2 for 14 years starting in 2002. He recalled that first race season on Thursday.
“I had to outfit her three different times. 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 Middlebury Ski Club’s good coaching and the Snow Bowl’s steep terrain breed good skiers. “For young kids, those big GS [Giant Slalom] rolls on Allen [a steep trail at the Snow Bowl] have a quick turnaround. It’s steep, but they learn to love it. That trains good technique.”
Allen must have made an impact on Abi because her favorite discipline is Giant Slalom. “It’s cool because you’re moving at high speed, but it’s really technical skiing,” she said this week. Giant slalom involves skiing through gates set further apart from each other than in a slalom race, but closer together than in Super G.
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, he 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,” said Jewett.
Abi said she is excited for the opportunity to travel internationally with the US 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 Vermont, 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 college until after her 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.
Ryan Cochran-Siegle of Starksboro and Ben Ritchie of Waitsfield were also nominated for the US Ski Team’s Alpine program. According to a press release from US Ski and Snowboard, an official team announcement will be made in the fall.
“Ski racing is Vermont’s sport,” said 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.”
For Abi’s part, she said she’ll miss Ripton but is excited for what’s ahead. “It’s a great place and community to come home to.”
Photo of Abi Jewett racing in the giant slalom, Nov. 24 at the Killington World Cup. Photo by Brooks Curran.