Epstein placed sixth in the Slalom and second in the Super G at the Junior Olympics last year, and placed second in the Macomber Cup and fifth at the Technica Cup in the Giant Slalom and 19th at the Eastern Cup Championships in the Super G this year.Read More Below
For many young skiers, crash-related injuries can extinguish alpine aspirations. They're the tipping point where safety concerns outweigh Olympic dreams, where the inherent dangers of the sport become too much to bear. A bruising fall can serve as a startling reminder of the very real bodily risks associated with whizzing downhill at speeds upwards of 80 miles an hour.
For 16-year-old Jeremy Epstein, each fall serves as a reminder of all he's already overcome in his promising career.
"I got a lot stronger," he said. "Since I came back [from injury] I've been skiing a lot better."
Just four days after arriving to Waterville Valley (N.H.) Academy in 2009, he tore his ACL after colliding with another skier. He was forced to miss the entire season, stunting his development and jeopardizing his skiing future. The setback only brought out the best in him.
Epstein's been fearless since his return to the slopes, placing sixth in the Slalom and second in the Super G at last year's Junior Olympics as a J3 (ages 13-14). This year as a J2 (ages 15-16), he's already placed second at the Macomber Cup and fifth at the Technica Cup in the Giant Slalom, and he finished 19th at the Eastern Cup Championships in the Super G.
Epstein's downhill quickness and sound technique are mature beyond his years, as he's been skiing since he was barely two years old. He started competitively racing soon after, parlaying early success into enrollment at Waterville.
"I wanted to take my talent to the next level," he said. "I wanted to see what I could do with having skiing the whole season."
He's benefited from Waterville's unique curriculum, a program which integrates snow sports with its normal academic teachings. The strategy to split students' time between the mountain and the classroom has produced world-class skiers such as Hannah Kearney, Dylan Ferguson and Chemmy Alcott. Though it's still too early to definitively tell, Epstein appears poised to join that elite group.
So what's next for the young phenom? For the immediate future, it should be more of the same. He'll look to finish his sophomore year on a high note before blowing by the competition as a junior in 2012. Upon graduation, he hopes to race for a Division-I college and -- if all goes well -- the U.S. Developmental Team.
"It's not too far off," he said of his Olympic ambitions. "It's just kinda hard to see right now."
He'll also continue to put his injury-riddled past behind him. He rarely thinks of his ACL incident anymore, choosing instead to let instinct take over during races.
"Right when I get in the gate, I don't think of anything," he said. "I don't think during my run or I'll probably screw up."