Berkeley High senior Foreste Peterson on a training run in Vail, CO., in November 2011 (U.S. Ski Team/Eric Schramm).
By CHACE BRYSON | Editor
Barbara Peterson probably knew what she was getting into when she succumbed to her 2 year-old daughter’s demands to take her onto Squaw Valley Ski Resort’s most famous — and challenging — chair lifts, KT-22.
“She insisted,” Peterson said of her youngest daughter, Foreste. “We got up there and on the way down I checked on her and she was sound asleep, skiing between my legs.”
Foreste Peterson is very much awake on her skis now. As the youngest member of the U.S. Ski Team, the 18 year-old is carving a ski path that is making some actually believe she COULD do such things in her sleep.
After three weeks of competing in Europe, Foreste returned to her Berkeley home on Jan. 23. She then spent her week connecting with her independent study teachers at Berkeley High, taking exams and turning in assignments. By Thursday, she was preparing to get back on a plane to head to Colorado where she would be competing over the weekend at Vail and Aspen.
Eat. Sleep. Study. Ski. And ski, and ski and ski!
This is essentially how it’s been since Foreste was, well, 2 years old. With two parents who are former ski racers, an older sister who raced, and grandparents with a cabin in Squaw Valley, she and her family would spend nearly every weekend from November to April on the slopes.
“I missed a lot of friends’ birthday parties and that sort of thing,” Foreste said. “I just would’ve rather been skiing. There were definitely trade-offs. That was just one of those things that I accepted. I had my priorities and skiing was definitely one of them.”
Foreste joined the Squaw Valley Mighty Mites at the age of 4, a program that most kids aren’t able to join until age 5 or 6. She was racing competitively by age 11.
By age 12 she qualified for the Jr. Olympics, and at 14 she competed in her first international event in Italy.
Skiing was a priority, and winning became a habit.
By the time the 2009-2010 race season came around, Foreste had become an absolute force. In a near three-month span from December 2009 to March 2010, she compiled 17 Top 10 finishes (mostly in slalom and giant slalom) and four victories.
She went from being on the U.S. Ski Team’s radar, to being invited to train with it in Austria. She was then selected to join the team in 2011 as a member of its Development Team.
And that’s when the crash happened.
“It was during training (in November 2010),” Foreste said. “I was practicing downhill at Copper Mountain in Colorado. I caught an edge and my ski didn’t come off. My ankle just broke inside the boot. I had surgery that night.”
And that quickly her ski season — the first with the U.S. Ski Team — was over.
“It was a hard blow for sure,” she said, admitting that it was also her first time facing any type of injury that had kept her out of action. “I kept my head up and just stayed focused on what I wanted to accomplish, which was healing.”
She refocused some of her attention on her school work and spent an intense three weeks of rehab at the U.S. Ski Team facility in Park City, Utah.
“Anybody that breaks a part of their lower leg inside the ski, that’s tough to do,” said seven-year U.S. Ski Team coach Jeff Pickering, who has known Foreste for close to six years and currently works with her on the Europa Team training group. “The toughest thing is knowing that the team just moves on.
“Our Development Team coach, Seth McCadam did a great job of getting her back on snow. We were still during the late stages of the race period, but he made the time to work with her and track her progression. ... By the time she got the green light, it seemed to me that she had told herself, ‘I’m over this injury and ready to go.’ We probably held her back a little more than she wanted to.”
Foreste returned to racing in November 2011, but instant success hasn’t followed. Her one Top 10 finish this season was a 10th place result in NorAm Cup racing at Panorama, British Columbia, on Dec. 14.
In what has become a source of frustration for the young skier, she’s collected a growing number of DNF’s — did not finish.
In slalom racing, Foreste’s best racing discipline due to her natural form and technical skill, a skier’s result is based on a combination of two separate runs down the mountain. For Foreste, getting two clean runs on a consistent basis has been a challenge.
It’s also left her on the bubble in qualifying for the International Ski Federation (FIS) Junior World Championships in March — an event she’s set as a goal to reach ever since her injury.
“Right now I’m having a hard time finding that consistency,” she said. “In the past, I’ve always been consistent. I’m just not sure what it is this year. I’ve been training really well, just not finding it in the races.”
In eight competitions during her three weeks in Europe, she only finished half of them. But Pickering knows it’s not for a lack of skill, or the case of a phenom reaching a plateau against better competition.
“Right now, when she finishes she’s cutting back a bit on her speed because she wants to finish,” Pickering said. “But the bottom line is that you have to go as fast as you can. Don’t just finish to finish. ... When she does put two runs together, she’s going to be really good. The staff is 100 percent behind her. Because it goes back to fundamentals. When it happens, things are going to go really good for her. I totally believe that. It’s just getting this little monkey off her back, and just go.”
What’s Mom think?
In addition to being a former ski racer, Barbara Peterson recently won her sixth Xterra Series triathlon world championship in the Masters division (age 40+). She’s also a practicing sports psychologist.
“Foreste is just exceedingly humble,” her mom said. “It’s one of her champion features. ... But recently we’ve talked and I’ve told her that at this level, at this juncture in her rise, she needs to embrace her ego a little bit. ... In that start gate, put on your tiger and wear some ego.”
That doesn’t mean Foreste lacks for confidence. She no doubt sees herself reaching the highest levels of the sport, and that includes a goal of reaching the 2014 Olympics in Russia.
“It’s a huge goal, and it will definitely be a stretch,” Foreste said. “I’ll be 20, which is fairly young. Most of elite skiers aren’t hitting their peak on the World Cup until 24 or 25.”
So if not 2014, then maybe 2018. The point is, she believes she’s capable.
And what’s more, so does the U.S. Ski Team.
“I think it’s really important for all kids in sports not to feel the pressure that they have to be somewhere or someone that they’re not at a specific time,” Pickering said. “If they can just focus one day at a time on themselves, things will work out. We really believe she has a chance. Hopefully Olympics and World Cup skiing are in the picture.”
And while “home” might change, and her new school — she hopes — will be Dartmouth University, Foreste will stick to the same routine she’s always known.
Eat. Sleep. Study. Ski. And ski, and ski and ski.
A Peterson Family photo shows Foreste in her skis as a 2 year-old at Squaw Valley.
Foreste, right, alongside her sister Hilary in 2011. (Peterson Family photo)
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