It’s been an unusual prep period for all athletes this year. Alice Merryweather would normally spend her spring and summer attending Dartmouth College, but as her classes shifted online, Merryweather moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, to spend her summer focusing on strength and control.
Merryweather is entering her sixth year on the U.S. Ski Team. While, for the women’s speed team, she remains on the younger side, it’s strange for her to no longer be the rookie anymore. Training at the Center of Excellence in Utah for most of her summer, Merryweather was surrounded by many new U.S. Ski Team members, including a couple new proteges.
Last year the U.S. Ski Team set up a formal mentorship program, where older athletes were assigned a younger athlete or two. The objective of the program is to facilitate open communication and relationships throughout the entire team while giving newer athletes access to a strong mentor figure.
Merryweather’s first two mentees were Zoe Zimmerman and Lauren Macuga. While the mentorship program provides a good reason to get to know her teammates, Merryweather appreciates the energy and support she has received from being a mentor.
“I feel like I learn so much from them,” said Merryweather. “It reminds me how open my mind was when I was on the D Team, just to see how excited they are about everything. They remind me not to take anything for granted.”
Merryweather recalls Anna Marno, who retired from the U.S. Ski Team in 2017, as her first mentor figure. She is grateful the program has been formalized and sets clear expectations for her teammates to make connections.
The mentor relationship goes both ways, and for Merryweather, she’s found one in coach Karin Harjo, who has become an invaluable asset in this stage of her career.
“It’s nice to have Karin, who is always on our side the entire time,” said Merryweather. “She’s there for me, especially on the hard days.”
Merryweather appreciates Harjo’s empathy when she is struggling — something male coaches don’t always have, she says. When it comes to mentality, Harjo’s opinion is vastly different from the male coaches and Merryweather can comfortably connect with her knowing she will be fully understood. From a technical standpoint, Harjo ‘always knows what to say’ when it comes down to explaining technique and feeling from the female body.
“She is just a badass role model because she hangs in there with all the male coaches in a masculine environment,” said Merryweather. “She has no shame and just owns it.”
Merryweather looks forward to traveling with Harjo and the rest of her team in Europe this winter. When facing unknowns, Merryweather is focusing on herself and what she can control. She is looking forward to her final weeks on U.S. snow and feels confident she will head into the World Cup season ready to race.