Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles that will interview World Cup athletes to talk about their experience with the coronavirus outbreak and how they’re coping with the quarantined lifestyle. We plan on publishing an article once a week for as long as we have to.
When U.S. Ski Teamer, Alice Merryweather, came down in 34th place at the super G in La Thuile, Italy she was rightfully pissed. The American speed specialist had just logged two impressive finishes in Crans Montana, Switzerland: 5th in the super G and 8th in the alpine combined. 34th just didn’t feel right.
“It was really disappointing not having a good day, but what was truly disappointing was that I missed the World Cup Finals by one point,” says the 23-year-old, originally hailing from the Boston Area. “But, if I’m going to miss any finals, this is the year to miss.”
As COVID-19 quickly took hold of Italy, World Cup Finals were canceled, sending the U.S. Team home on short notice. Determined to keep racing, Merryweather made plans to finish the season strong in North America—largely unaffected by the virus at that time. So she went to see her parents in Massachusetts, then continued onto Utah and began prepping for NorAm Finals in Panorama, B.C. But those races were canceled too, just like everything else in the world. So she flew back to Massachusetts again, got her car, and drove all the way back to Utah in hopes of settling in and working out at U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Center of Excellence for a while.
The Center of Excellence soon closed as well, and Merryweather found herself chasing opportunities across the world that just did not materialize. But she’s an optimist through and through—someone who finds positive moments in each day while keeping her eye on the good times ahead.
We caught up with her to see exactly how she’s doing in the midst of this pandemic.
What does your living situation look like right now?
I’m staying with my boyfriend, Sam DuPratt, at his house with his two roommates. It’s been kind of weird because I’m basically crashing at their place during a pandemic but I’ve been trying to bake them things and make up for my presence. It’s really nice to have a good crew; we’ve been having fun and it’s a lot better than being alone.
How is Salt Lake City looking?
People are adhering to social distancing and you can definitely feel the change. Almost everything is closed. But one thing that’s really cool is that so many people are outside biking, walking, and running. It’s impossible to find an open tennis court because everyone is out being active. It’s exciting to see people taking advantage of the outdoors with a little more free time than they’d normally have.
And what are you doing outdoors?
I’ve been doing some hiking. Normally, I’m just out in Utah during the summer so part of me wants the snow to melt so I can go on my favorite trails again. But mostly I’ve just been playing tennis when I can find a court and getting back into working out. We’ve got an outdoor gym setup at the house so lifts have been alright. It’s starting to warm up, which feels just glorious, and I’m looking forward to doing everything I can outside.
Skiing at all?
Yeah, still skiing a little. I got a touring setup right when I got out here and thankfully Big Cottonwood Canyons and Little Cottonwood Canyon are still open, so I’ve been touring as much as I can. With classes, I have a little less time, but I still get a trip or two every week.
A lot of people think skiing’s a bit too dangerous in a time like this. Thoughts on that?
For sure. We’ve debated about it a bunch but we don’t go anywhere that we find dangerous. We’ve got avalanche equipment, we ski low-angle and low-risk terrain, and we definitely don’t want to become a problem or overwhelm the hospital system. Obviously there’s always going to be some risk, but we’ve been trying to pick the lowest-risk things we can.
Right on. So how are you guys passing the time indoors?
We play some music. Sam’s roommate, Mark Engel, lives here and he’s an excellent musician so he’s been entertaining us through song a lot. We’ve also played, god, I don’t even know how many games of Settlers of Catan. And some Trivial Pursuit, some cards. We’ve recently gotten into the bread baking craze, too. We finally tracked down some yeast—it was really hard to find—so we’ve been getting real excited about that. I tried to make a loaf last weekend but it came out like a big hockey puck. Whoops. But I made some bagels yesterday; those were far more successful, so I’m going to try another loaf again soon.
And you’re in school, correct?
Yeah, I’m taking online classes through Dartmouth right now. This is just my third trimester because I’ve only done spring classes since I started a couple of years ago. So technically I’m still a freshman, which is pretty weird. I’m taking a government class and my professor asked who was alive out of the class during the Monica Lewinski scandal in 1998 and I was the only one who raised their hand; feeling a little old in those moments but it’s all good. So, yeah, I’m taking that government class, a geography class, economics, and french. It’s a lot going on, all on Zoom calls, so I’m getting used to staring at people’s faces… It’s overwhelming making it work but we’re all in the same boat.
Alright. Some rapid-fire questions here… What do you find yourself eating all the time during these quarantine days?
Anything I’ve baked recently: cookies, banana bread, muffins. There’s usually at least one fresh-baked good in the house.
What are you drinking all the time?
I recently discovered root beer kombucha and have been stocking up on that during my weekly grocery store trips.
Our Planet on Netflix lately. It’s this nature docuseries. Very nerdy and very good.
Up until school started, I was reading Sapiens and haven’t found time to continue because I’m just reading school books all the time right now.
A lot of podcasts, mostly newsy stuff, which can be depressing… My current favorite song is called “Hotel Song” by Diana DeMuth.
When the pandemic is eventually over, what’s a lesson you’ll take away?
My sanitary habits will forever change. I’m so much more aware of the need to wash my hands and the act of social distancing is going to be ingrained in me. I’m really aware of how germs spread now and I think I’ll work that awareness into my everyday life, even when everything goes back to normal.