“Those European kids are massive”
by Than Acuff
Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team (CBMST) u16 alpine ski racer Asher Weinberg lit up the alpine race scene last year as a first-year u16 racer, finishing the year ranked second in the downhill and fifth in the super giant slalom.
This year, as a second-year u16 athlete, he took it one step further as he won a giant slalom race at Winter Park in December to qualify as the lone male racer from the Rocky/Central Division, and one of six total young men and women from the United States, for a series of training and racing at Baqueira-Beret in northern Spain against the top u16 racers from six European countries in February.
“It’s the highest level of u16 racing you can compete in,” says Weinberg.
“Immersing our young athletes into the European experience of ski racing is a key component in elevating their approach to the sport,” adds Kristina Revello, Rocky/Central Regional development coach for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team. “The level of competition feels more intense and for each of our top-ranked athletes—there are 10 to 20 more at each race in Europe, for example. When you go to a ski race in Europe, the energy is palpable at every level and it’s exciting to be around.”
Weinberg headed to Spain February 3 and spent a week of training prior to the races with a revolving door of coaches. Revello traveled and coached the six alpine skiers along with a Slovenian coach, U.S. Ski and Snowboard head development director Chip Knight and even a Spanish ski tech.
“We had four days of training where we were able to ski on the venue in Baqueira-Beret and had training in both SG and GS. [Weinberg] was able to make small adjustments in his skiing that helped him on race day, points that he can take home to work on over the summer and into next season,” says Revello.
“I got a lot of different coaching and different feedback, which was super cool,” adds Weinberg.
Once he hit the snow, Weinberg already got a sense that things were different when it comes to racing in Europe. And he also soon realized that a u16 European racer is much different from a U.S. u16 alpine ski racer.
“Everything is so much more high intensity than in the U.S.,” says Weinberg. “Those European kids are massive, five foot ten inches and taller, super strong and super intimidating. They’re in the start gate and just yelling.”
Despite the late dinner hours, the town shutting down at 1:30 p.m. for nap time and the massive size of his opponents, Weinberg slid into the start gate focused on the course below him. His top result, and the top result among all U.S. skiers, came in the super-G, where he placed sixth. He suffered a hiccup in his two giant slalom races heading into the flats to finish 28th overall. Then the dual slalom was a bit tougher as the speed disciplines are more his strength.
“I went against this big Slovenian kid and I’m thinking halfway down I’m doing pretty good,” explains Weinberg. “Then I looked over and he was like three gates ahead of me. I got my ass kicked but it was still super cool.”
“Asher seemed to have an incredible experience and it was great to see him soaking up the entire atmosphere,” says Revello. “His mindset was great—super positive and taking in the experience. The staff could tell he was just so happy to be there. He had the best result for team USA in SG [super-G], coming in sixth out of a field of 50, behind a strong contingent of French and Austrian men who dominated the event alongside the Italians. In GS [giant slalom], Asher came in a respectable 26th. He didn’t move back or forward from his starting position of 27. Luckily, he will have time over the summer to work on his GS and I know he will come into next season very strong.”
Weinberg returned to the States and just wrapped up the coronavirus-shortened season with the Rocky/Central Regional Championships in Winter Park. Weinberg won the downhill race and then, despite re-injuring his thumb on a gate mid-course and binding issues, placed second in the super-G. He is currently ranked first in the nation among u16 skiers in the downhill.
Looking ahead, Weinberg is on his own for a while to stay sharp with the race season canceled until further notice.
“We start preparations for next season in April with a few short camps here in Colorado,” says Revello. “The focus really should be on conditioning until we can plan travel for on-snow projects, which right now is unknown with restrictions in place from the spread of COVID-19.”
“I may go to Italy for a camp two weeks this summer, a camp at Mt. Hood and a speed week at Mammoth but it depends if everything opens back up,” says Weinberg. “Right now I’ve been doing lots of backcountry skiing, running and staying in shape. It’s hard for me to stay inside for more than two hours—I have to go do something.”
“Asher has a propensity for speed events, super-G and downhill, and is a very good athlete in general,” says Revello. “He likes to go fast and isn’t afraid to work hard on the fundamentals. He really enjoys skiing and has a great mindset for growth as a person. This is something that will help him progress in the sport—building skills for each discipline is dependent upon overall athleticism and being open to working through the process, which can take an incredible amount of time. If you’re adaptable, strong and are willing to push yourself both mentally and physically, you will be able to continue making progress.”