“We call it riding the rut”
[ by Than Acuff ]
Local alpine ski racer Asher Weinberg has entered the periphery of the U.S. Ski Team fray at the young age of 16, having just wrapped up a training camp this past month at Copper Mountain. After two days back in Crested Butte this week, he is off to Aspen for the year to live and train with Aspen Valley Ski Club while continuing online schooling through the Crested Butte Community School.
The camp in Copper, titled the National Development Group, was invite-only, where 15 of the top skiers in the nation ages 16 to 20 who are not yet on the U.S. Ski Team are gathered together for some early season work-outs on and off snow.
“It’s to get us on snow as early as possible and get in some quality training,” says Weinberg. “It’s right below the U.S. Ski Team ‘D’ team and over this next year, we’re looked at for the ‘D’ team.”
Weinberg got the call to the camp based on his effort racing last season, including an invitation to train and race in Spain last spring.
“I made a lot of improvements in my skiing last year and finished top of the pack in a lot of my races,” says Weinberg.
The camp was certainly no “camp,” though. It was a heavy three weeks of workouts that started nearly every day, with the athletes waking up at 5:15 a.m. and loading the chairlift by 6:15 a.m.
“Before the time change you’d get on the lift and look up and still see the stars,” says Weinberg.
They would then proceed to ski for anywhere from three to five hours mixing in all disciplines: slalom, GS, Super G and Downhill. Lunch would follow and then the ski racers would jump into recovery workouts that included core work, balance and mobility.
While Weinberg’s preference is the speed events such as Downhill and Super G, he paid attention to improving in the technical events of slalom and Giant Slalom.
“This year I’m really looking to improve my technical skiing,” says Weinberg. “It’s really important for all skiing in general and a lot of the criteria for making the U.S. Ski Team involves Slalom and GS skiing.”
With COVID-19 ravaging the country, the ski camp was the lone camp allowed in the United States and was therefore heavily monitored and regulated. Not only was Weinberg confined to a condo with the same five other members of the camp the entire time, all camp participants were closely monitored by consistent and successive testing.
“The coaches had to do the shopping for us every week and we got tested [for COVID] a lot,” says Weinberg. “When our results came back, we would then get tested again that day. Nobody got COVID the whole time.”
It’s now go time for Weinberg as he heads to train with Aspen Valley Ski Club. The season starts with Super G races in Copper December 2-3. Weinberg has a tough year ahead of him as a first-year FIS racer with his points starting at 999. As a result, he will start every race at the very back of the pack until he starts knocking points off and moving up the start list—he’ll be running rutted-out courses that have been skied by as many as 50 people before him.
“The course is more beat up when you get to race and I’m not going to be able to ski my own line,” says Weinberg. “We call it riding the rut.”
The season itself is a huge question mark. While he has the Copper races on the schedule, everything else remains up in the air.
“The whole season is still getting figured out because of COVID,” says Weinberg. “Nobody’s really sure.”
As a first-year racer at that level, it will be tough to make enough strides to get the call up to the “D” team for the 2021-2022 winter, so Weinberg is not too stressed about the road ahead of him this year.
“What happens, happens,” says Weinberg. “I still have a few more years to meet the U.S. Ski Team criteria. The ultimate goal is to make it on the U.S. Ski Team and race World Cup.”