CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Patrick Riml judges the success of the U.S. Alpine Ski Team not by how clean and fast Mikaela Shiffrin skis (the answer to that is, “very”), but rather how the younger skiers fare at large events — like at the recently completed U.S. Alpine Championships at Sugarloaf.

“From our young athletes, we’ve had solid growth in the training groups and development programs,” Riml said. “To see Nina O’Brien win the GS, we were very pleased to see that, and we had two more girls in the National Training Group finish in the top 10. That was very impressive.”

Riml is the Alpine director for the U.S. Ski Team. The U.S. Alpine Championships gave all of the athletes who either compete for the U.S. team or aspire to it one more good chance to showcase their talents in front of Riml and head U.S. Ski Team coach Sasha Rearick.

“Everybody’s been killing it on the World Tour,” Chodounsky said. “I was hoping to ski a little faster myself, but the team as a whole has been skiing great. It’s awesome to come home, and kind of celebrate that.”

The top slalom skier in the American stable, Chodounsky defended his title this week at Sugarloaf. The men’s slalom was one of four events out of six contested at Sugarloaf won by a member of the U.S. ski team. O’Brien broke through in the women’s GS, with U.S. team member Paula Moltzan in second, right behind her.

“That next step, we want to be sure our top athletes continue to improve,” Riml said. “We want Mikaela to take that next step. We also want to focus on athletes developing at a younger age. I think where we are, we have a good, solid base.”

Among the reasons for the team’s improving depth are Riml and Rearick.

Local ties

Long before he was the men’s head coach for the U.S. Ski team, Rearick was a member of Gould Academy’s On-Snow Competition program.

A New York City native and resident of Park City, Utah, this past week was a homecoming of sorts, with the national championships up the road at Sugarloaf. 

When the U.S. nationals were last at Sugarloaf, Rearick was the team’s technical head coach.

Rearick’s journey to being the men’s U.S. Alpine coach took him across the country, as well as the globe. His coaching career began in Colorado while attending college at Western State Colorado University, when he volunteered his time at Monarch Ski Area, an 800-acre mountain with 54 trails and two terrain parks.

From there, it was off to France for a year. Rearick became an instructor at the French Ski School in Tignes, France. He returned to the U.S. and coached the Green Mountain Valley School in Vermont for the next three years.

Rearick’s first taste of the U.S. team came in 2002, when he joined the coaching staff following the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Coaching at the World Cup and Europa level, he served as the head man of the Europa Cup team during the 2006-07 seasons.

When Mike Morin stepped down as the team’s head coach after the 2008 U.S. Championships at Sugarloaf, Rearick was promoted to his current title.

From Austria, with skis

Riml, a native of Solden, Austria, was a member of Austria’s powerful national team before suffering a back injury during a race in Japan. He became certified at the club level and worked with programs in Australia and Austria before joining the Austrian national team coaching staff for the 1996 season.

He was Europa Cup slalom and giant slalom coach before becoming Claudia Riegler’s personal coach for two seasons. She won four World Cup races before retiring.

He joined the U.S. coaching staff as Europa Cup head coach in the 2002 Olympic season, and jumped up to the women’s Head Coach position in 2004, where he served for seven seasons. After a short stint with Alpine Canada, Riml returned to the U.S. Ski Team as Alpine Director in 2011.

“That’s all part of success — you need good staff, you need good technicians and everything to support you and have your back,” Chodounsky said. “I think we’re building there, and it looks good for the future.”

Going forward

Riml’s mission for the team is clear: Add depth and continue to create chemistry.

“We’re getting there,” Riml said. “Our ultimate goal is to have three or four skiers competing for the podium at every event — both men and women.”

O’Brien and Moltzan showed this week that the women’s team’s depth is indeed expanding. On the men’s side, young skiers like Carrabassett Valley’s Sam Morse and surprise super-G winner Drew Duffy are starting to make waves. The progress in both talent and chemistry hasn’t gone unnoticed among the team’s veterans.

“I’ve spent a couple years away, and this year, the organization throughout the season was strong, and we had great training and a solid team,” Ford said. “It’s a good team environment.”

Ford, who won eight U.S. championship races before a tough injury forced him to take time off, returned this season and has slowly worked his way back into the U.S. team mix. Part of that reason has been the camaraderie.

“It’s a long season, and to have everyone be able to be around each other, help each other out,” Ford said. “When you get tired, you miss home or you’re frustrated, it’s important — and we’ve had that this year.”

It showed at Sugarloaf, too. After runs, skiers would often linger in the finish corral, awaiting friends and teammates who were still on the course.

With elite-level talent on full display all week alongside the gaggle of young skiers who wowed even some of the best skiers in the world — and their coach — the coaching staff is happy with the team’s direction.

“I think we’re heading in the right direction,” Riml said. “We have several good, young skiers already there, and we had a strong showing at World Juniors, too.”

Staff writer Mike Kraft contributed to this story.


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