Alice Merryweather enjoys World Cup spotlight as junior world champion
Alice Merryweather thinks it’s pretty cool to ski alongside Lindsey Vonn.
Merryweather, 20, is still relatively new to the U.S. Ski Team and is just getting her feet wet on the top level. Vonn, 32, is a four-time overall World Cup champion and has more World Cup wins than any woman in history.
“When I started working with this team last year, I’d sit down at the same table as her and I couldn’t even believe it,” Merryweather said Wednesday in Aspen. “It’s such an incredible experience. She’s been so nice and so helpful. It’s been so cool to see that not only is she an amazing role model, but she is a really nice person.”
Merryweather and Vonn were two of the six Americans to compete in the women’s downhill race Wednesday, the first day of the World Cup Finals in Aspen. Vonn took second, while Merryweather finished 19th in the 20-skier field. Only U.S. teammate Breezy Johnson, who crashed, finished below Merryweather.
But, considering how Merryweather got to Aspen, the results really didn’t matter.
“It was the time of my life,” Merryweather said. “It’s fun to come here. I don’t feel pressure to do extremely well here. I just kind of went into this saying, ‘I’m going to ski this the best I can and give it my all and just enjoy my experience.’”
Merryweather was the final skier out of the gate Wednesday, the warm weather doing her no favors. The only reason she even competed was because exactly a week prior in Are, Sweden, Merryweather won gold in the women’s downhill at the 2017 FIS Junior World Ski Championships. The junior world champion earns an automatic spot in the World Cup Finals.
“It was crazy,” Merryweather said of winning at junior worlds, noting how poorly she did in the training runs. “The night before the race I just kind of put all that behind me and thought about how I could ski and went into it super confidently and skied my best race. It was so cool to win.”
Fellow American Sam Morse, who took 20th in Wednesday’s men’s downhill race in Aspen, qualified the same way after he won the junior world championship last week in Sweden.
“It’s really cool to do it right alongside Sam Morse,” Merryweather said. “It’s nice because I don’t feel so alone. I have him right there. And Breezy Johnson is a ’96 as well, so we’ve grown up skiing together. It’s nice to have familiar faces.”
Merryweather, like Morse (of Sugarloaf, Maine), hails from the East Coast, which is hardly a hotbed for downhill skiers. Merryweather is from Hingham, Massachusetts, and went to Stratton Mountain School in Vermont.
The downhill race Wednesday was her sixth career World Cup appearance. She appeared in two last winter and three this season, including a giant slalom in Killington, Vermont, near where she grew up.
“The GS at Killington was unbelievable. I got the spot from a time trial we had with my team and to go race an hour from where I went to high school was amazing,” Merryweather said. “I see myself definitely being a three-event skier. I think I’m really confident in my GS skiing. I haven’t put it together in races so much this year, but I’ve been training really well.”
Merryweather won’t stick around for the remainder of Finals, as she is off to Quebec, Canada, to compete in the Nor-Am Finals, which starts Friday with the women’s slalom.
She is set to win the overall Nor-Am downhill title and will push for the super-G title, as well. Her high standings will lead to more World Cup appearances next winter.
“It’s cool to be an up and comer (on the U.S. Ski Team),” Merryweather said. “It’s scary a little bit, especially when I come work with this group and they are all veterans and they know what they are doing. It’s a good kind of scary, though.”
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Bluebird skies, spring-like temperatures and a few inches of snow from Monday night’s storm helped Snowmass skiers and snowboarders cruise into the season Wednesday for opening day.