Not many 21-year-olds would consider a term of studying at Dartmouth as time to “unwind”, but for Alice Merryweather, her first term of college in the spring of 2018 was a nice change of pace in comparison to her whirlwind of a winter.
In February, the Massachusetts native raced in her first Olympics, having discovered she would be taking the place of an injured teammate, Steve Nyman, in Korea. She had been discussing her plan to return to the states with coach Chip White just the day before. While the rest of the speed team headed to PyeongChang, her original plan was to return to the states to compete in NorAms and a few college races. Little did she know that her coach would offer her the opportunity of a lifetime.
“Gary pulled me aside after training (in Garmisch)and said ‘there are a few glitches in your plan that I wanted to talk to you about…the first glitch in your plan I found is, well, what if you went to the Olympics instead?’…I just freaked out and started crying.”
Merryweather ended up placing 15th in the Alpine Combined in her Olympic debut, which comes as no surprise to ski racing fans, seeing as the young racer is no newbie to competing on the world stage. At 21, she has 19 World Cup starts under her belt, and she won the downhill at Junior Worlds in Are, Sweden in 2017.
Despite her growing experience, she admits that the Olympics and World Cup races tend to break her down more so than junior races. The women racing on the World Cup circuit are often women that young racers like Merryweather have looked up to since they first started running gates, so competing at their level can be quite intimidating.
“The day I won Junior Worlds I was overcome with this weird sense of calm and confidence, and I haven’t gotten that back on the World Cup yet. It’s just different to look around the start and see faces like Lindsey [Vonn] other than the Juniors that I’m used to being competitive with.”
So, this summer, rather than continuing to take classes at Dartmouth, Merryweather decided to take time off from school to completely focus on training for the upcoming season. Her last time on snow was back in May at Mammoth Mountain, and she won’t be back in gates until early September, so increasing both physical and mental strength has become her main focus.
To achieve peak physical fitness, Merryweather is in the gym at the US Ski Team training headquarters in Park City five days a week, focusing on lifting and core. For cardio, hiking is her go to, getting her out of the gym and back on the mountain.
“I’m really excited about how strong I’m getting, and I’m really stoked to get back on snow. I checked the other day and I think I’ve tracked 117 miles and 44,000 foot vertical so far this summer and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. There’s no feeling like being on top of a peak and feeling like you’re on top of the world.”
In addition to strength and fitness, Merryweather’s routine has been centered on improving what she sees as her biggest weakness, her mental game. “I’m a big overthinker” she says, “that’s my biggest problem.”
“In the World Cup races, I kind of got into my head and over thought, thought I needed to send it harder, or take more risks, and that backfired. This summer I’m really focused on myself and improving my mental game, both in and out of the gym.”
Merryweather attributes her family and teammates to be a key source of motivation and inspiration as she works on finding a balance between skiing, school, and success.
“The team has been so accommodating and so helpful. Stacey (Cook), Lindsey (Vonn), Alice (McKennis) have been so nice and warm, helping me deal with the stress that comes with racing the World Cup circuit. I’ve looked up to them for most of my ski racing career so it’s kind of crazy to be skiing alongside them.”
Her friendships with teammates and Dartmouth peers, Tricia Mangan and Nina O’Brien, have also helped lift the stress of juggling her career as professional athlete with her drive to receive a solid education.
“It’s crazy to think I’ve only known them for four years because we truly are best friends. I don’t get to see them a lot because they travel the tech circuit and I travel speed but getting to be in an academic environment with them outside of skiing was awesome and made the transition much easier.”
Her parents, Hugh and Liz, try and make it to one or two races every season, and they were lucky enough to snag tickets to PyeongChang at the last minute to watch their daughter compete in her first Olympics.
“Having them in Korea was huge for me, they are my number one supporters,” she says.
Her brother, Simon, is an ex-racer himself, having skied for Harvard as their team captain for three years. In fact, her drive to compete with her brother on the slopes of Attitash Mountain as a child was in part what drove her into the sport.
“I started racing by doing Nastar when I was a little kid. My brother who is a few years older than me qualified for Nastar Nationals one year and I didn’t and I was really driven to get better. My family actually went to Park City for the race, and afterward my parents were like ‘oh, they are pretty serious about this, we should get them on a team.’ And here I am, still doing it.”
When she’s not skiing, training, or studying, Merryweather has plenty of other interests she enjoys. Recently, she attended the Utah Symphony’s outdoor performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture at Deer Valley. She grew up playing classical tunes on the family piano, and says they are the best at grounding her in times of stress. In addition, Merryweather loves to travel with her ukulele. Her favorite song to strum is “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers, one of her favorite bands.
When asked what she was looking forward to most when it comes to life outside of skiing, her attention turned toward the many paths her academics could lead her down.
“Ever since high school I’ve been drawn to Biology, and if I could do anything I would study Marine Biology. My family has a boat on Boston Harbor, so when I was a kid we would go out and go whale watching or fishing. I’m always just so happy to be on the ocean.”
Whether it be on the mountain, in the gym, or in the classroom, Alice Merryweather’s passion for her sport and lust for life seems to be leading her down a path to success, no matter which road she chooses to take.