Three of a kind
When Nancy Westfeldt had a sonogram in her fifth month of pregnancy, her husband, Weems, couldn’t believe his eyes.
“It was a pretty dramatic sonogram, I thought the guy had the wrong channel,” Weems said.
And for good reason ” the monitor revealed not one baby, but three.
“That sort of changed everything,” he added.
A few months later, Nancy gave birth to triplets, all of them boys. First out was Ben, followed by Wallace, then Packy.
Last month, the triplets graduated from Aspen High, and in their caps and gowns, it was difficult to tell them apart. But in fact, they’re very different.
I was friends with a pair of twins in high school, and I always had trouble telling them apart. They dressed the same, talked the same, acted the same and did the same things. They both went to Duke University where they played lacrosse, and both have since moved to New York City, where they hold similar jobs. I still have trouble telling them apart.
That’s not the case with the Westfeldts.
No doubt the bond that unites triplets has always been strong, but over the years each has developed his own unique identity and passions. Those differences were obvious from the get-go.
“They were different right from the start,” Weems said. “They had really distinct personalities, and we encouraged that.”
Added Packy: “We’re as close as friends get. We always stuck up for each other, but we like to do our own thing. We’re triplets, but we’re really just friends.”
The sons of ski instructors who had relocated to Aspen from Taos, N.M., in the 1980s, the boys learned at an early age that ski hills are holy ground in the Westfeldt clan.
“[Skiing] was our lifestyle, we didn’t want to give that up,” Weems said.
And the boys were enveloped by that lifestyle.
“They were raised by wild dogs and ski instructors,” Weems said. “From a very early age, they could be independent on the mountain. We could release them to go ” the mountain was a really good baby-sitter.”
A few years ago, the Westfeldts built a home at North 40 near the Aspen Business Center ” customized for triplets, with three upstairs bedrooms. Until then, the boys had been sharing a room.
“It’s much more peaceful now,” Nancy said. “And now they will always have a place to come back to in Aspen.”
Added Weems: “But we’re planning on them making a really powerful living soon, so they can support us in style.”
Already, they have showed some business savvy, helping their friend and Roaring Fork High graduate Sam Horowitz with his eccentric ski and snowboard accessories company ” Casuela ” which is Spanish for toilet bowl.
They sell hoodies, T-shirts, hats and stickers embroidered with the Horowitz-crafted design, which resembles a toilet bowl with wings.
“Sam is really creative and he just drew it up one day, and he got the name from a friend in Carbondale and it just kind of stuck,” Wallace said. “We’re just kind of having fun with it.”
Perhaps the first sign of their individual personalities and preferences emerged on the slopes when the boys were 5 years old, at which time Wallace broke the family mold by picking up a snowboard.
And while Ben and Packy continued skiing, they went separate directions. Ben would later focus on freestyle, while Packy stuck to bashing gates.
All three are accomplished competitors in their disciplines. Wallace and Packy plan to stay in Aspen next year to train with coaches from the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.
Ben, on the other hand, will attend Grinnell College in, of all places, Iowa, where he was recruited to play his other passion ” football.
“It’s a really cool place, it’s good academically and I like the coaches,” Ben said. “We’ll see what happens.”
His dad, like a true ski fanatic, said college won’t cause Ben to forget about his roots. “Ben’s going to Iowa doesn’t make him less passionate about snow,” Weems said.
Ben agreed: “I could see myself coming back to this valley.”
And Wallace and Packy don’t see themselves leaving, at least not yet.
“I wasn’t really in a hurry to go off to college,” Packy said. “I still have Casey Puckett as a coach, and I’m having a great time doing it right now ” we’ll see how far it can take me.”
Puckett, a former Olympian who is now the ability coach of AVSC’s alpine racing team, helped train Packy en route to a 2003 high school state championship in slalom. Last winter, Packy missed most high school races as he was often on the road competing in Nor Am races, an upper level of the alpine skiing circuit considered a testing ground to the World Cup.
When asked about one day competing for the U.S. Ski Team, Packy put things in perspective.
“That’s a long ways off,” he said. “More of a realistic goal would be to better myself to race for a [Division 1, of Division 2] school.”
Wallace, who competes in the terrain park and boardercross, had a tough winter, re-injuring his shoulder and missing most events. But he plans to be back next year. And while he hopes to one day turn pro, it’s not the be-all and end-all of his existence.
“It would be a dream to be a pro snowboarder,” he said. “But it’s more about the lifestyle of the mountains ” to find a way to make a place in that would be just fine.”
Packy feels the same way.
“I really want to make a career out of skiing,” he said. “I don’t want to be a ski instructor, but I’d like to be involved with it somehow.
“I can’t imagine not skiing.”
As different as they are on the snow, the triplets actually share a few common traits: They’re humble, somewhat quiet, funny, respectful of each other and grateful for their upbringing.
“The guys are really relaxed and easygoing. They really appreciate where they are,” Weems said. “They were always really fun; they had a great sense of humor from the start, and they never misbehaved.”
And no jealousy, or competition?
Packy: “No, no fighting.”
Tae Westcott, a friend of the triplets, described them as “crazy, but pretty chill.”
“Wallace breaks himself a lot, Packy tries to ski, and Ben does a pretty good job of skiing ” he’s the best out of them,” Tae joked.
When asked about their personalities, Westcott thought for a moment before saying: “They’re triplets, but individuals in their own sort of way.”
Steve Benson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.