Two-time Olympic skiing medalist Andrew Weibrecht carves out new life
The Associated Press
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Andrew Weibrecht steers his pickup truck off the main drag of the Olympic village where he grew up and heads down a narrow, wooded dirt road to water’s edge, grabs a fishing pole and gazes out at windswept Lake Placid, Whiteface Mountain looming in the distance like a giant sentinel.
“I love time in the woods so much, whether it’s going out canoeing, hiking, or just bushwhacking around with my dog,” said the two-time Olympic medalist in downhill skiing. “Whatever I’m doing in the woods … just really centers me. It’s why I love living here. To be able to walk out the door and be out in it is pretty special.”
The man who earned the nickname “War Horse” for his unbridled fury in attacking a course — he blew out each ankle and had surgery on both shoulders and a knee in his career with the U.S. Ski Team — announced his retirement in May after nearly three decades of competitive skiing. The transition from the frenetic pace of the ski season into the role of husband to wife Denja and father to his two young daughters has been seamless.
“It’s been really good. I was ready to move on to different things,” said Weibrecht, who will be inducted into the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and Museum in April. “I think in that respect I’ve been really lucky because not everybody has that luxury where they’re ready to do something different. Being able to spend as much time as I have with my family … has been a treat.
“It came down to two things,” Weibrecht added. “My body took a serious hit the last couple of years. It’s not that I probably couldn’t have gone through it physically, but it just doesn’t really make sense to me. The other part is we had another daughter. Once we had our first daughter, it was definitely a different situation with me being on the road and knowing what I went through and what I missed. I really didn’t want to do that a second time.”
That he made the right decision at age 32 to walk away from the sport he’s loved since he was a toddler is evident to those who know him best.
“I think this is the happiest I’ve seen him in a long time,” said his mom, Lisa. “It’s really interesting.”
Weibrecht’s career on the slopes was unique. Before he earned a spot on a World Cup podium for the first time, he already had won Olympic bronze, at Whistler in 2010, and silver, at Sochi in 2014, both in super-G.
“The timing of the Olympics was very fortuitous,” said Weibrecht, whose Olympic medal streak ended at Pyeongchang in February when he failed to finish. “Those just happened to be the times that I was peaking in my career, for whatever reason. From Sochi on for a couple of years it was a great run for me.
“The things that really halted my development — if I could do it again, I would just get hurt less,” he added with a laugh. “That was always the limiting factor. When I would get injured, then I’d have to start the process over again. I got good at it because I did it a lot. I think that having that process down so well I could have gotten back to where I wanted to be athletically, but I’m just at a different place in my life.”
That place is action-packed, too. Weibrecht earned his license to be a guide during the summer and is studying to complete the degree he started long ago at Dartmouth with an eye toward going on for an MBA. He’s also fulfilling a physical education requirement by helping coach the Dartmouth ski team, which makes his mom chuckle.
“I started it and went through part of the process,” Weibrecht said. “I never went to high school that much (because of skiing), so being able to have the opportunity to go to college and see that through is something personal that I want to accomplish. This one I want to actually complete.”
Weekends are spent home in Lake Placid, where Lisa and husband Ed operate the stately Mirror Lake Inn, one of the signature resort hotels in the East. On Friday nights, Andrew makes s’mores for hotel guests on the shore of Mirror Lake, and by day he’s in business meetings and patrolling the dining room pouring coffee, just like mom and dad, as he learns the business alongside his wife.
His parents are thrilled.
“For us, it’s personal. That’s where I grew up,” said Andrew, whose Olympic medals hang behind the front desk at the inn. “It’s my parents’ life work. It’s very personal to them. To me, that’s really cool — to be involved in a business that you really care about on a deeper level than the spreadsheet end of it.
“Things are different now than it was when my dad started (in the 1970s), but the premise of providing people with a special experience isn’t, and that’s what it’s all about.”
That special experience will include skiing at Whiteface with guests starting this winter and, in the future, there likely will be a chance to join a two-time Olympic medalist on wilderness outings in the Adirondack Mountains.
“He loves being a Dad and doesn’t want to miss out on that,” U.S. skier Steven Nyman said. “And being a guide I think that will put him in his element. It could also be a good feature for the family business. Go hunting with the War Horse! I would pay for that.”
The U.S. Ski team is preparing for the upcoming season and Weibrecht figures he might get the itch again when the snow flies.
Then again. Nah!
“I’m sure at some point come December when everybody’s out at Beaver Creek it’ll be a different story and I’ll get a little bit nostalgic for it,” he said. “But as far as it goes right now, I couldn’t even imagine being in South America (training).
“I’m going to go out and ride my mountain bike for three hours. Tomorrow, I don’t want to do anything. For years it was, ‘OK you can go ride for an hour and a half, but it’s got to be within this heart rate. Tomorrow, ride for three hours but it’s got to be really low heart rate.’ You’re never really having fun with it. To get the maximum benefit, you’re really structured. Now, I run as hard as I want, I go for a bike ride, and if I decide I want to do 45 minutes and not any more, I go home.”
Two Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteer projects are scheduled to assist with finish work, rock armoring and seeding of disturbed areas, according Ted O’Brien, manager of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Resource and Trails. The events will be led in collaboration with Open Space and Trails and the Roaring Fork Mountain Biking Association.
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