His opponents should have known when he took two of the three Super G races on this year’s circuit.
They should have known when he kicked off the year with a broken arm Jan. 1, then took first in the Durango giant slalom races over the following two days, despite a brand-new cast.
But when Nicholas Veth, 14, shredded the Super G course and took second in the highly technical giant slalom race at this year’s J3 Junior Olympics, they knew he was the fastest skier on Golden Peak in Vail.
Along with his SG title and his finish in the giant slalom, the Taos Ski Academy athlete clinched the all-around boys’ J3 championship with a fourth in downhill and eighth in slalom last week.
“That’s huge, to be that versatile,” his coach and father Alain Veth said.
Despite his string of wins this season, he had to navigate a tough field — with high-caliber racers from 42 teams and 22 states — and a remarkably tough course.
In the boys field, 24 of 90 racers either did not finish or were disqualified, and more than a couple boys and girls had to make the hospital their next stop.
“The course was set really fast. When you clock your fastest speed, you were hitting the jump,” the coach said.
Racers needed to come off the jump with direction since there was a hard right turn at the bottom, he added, “but you didn’t know where the gate was. The jump was the big deal. That was the biggest jump he’s ever taken.”
After being clocked at 69 mph hour coming in, Nicholas Veth launched about 70 feet, with perfect form, stuck the landing and ripped through the quick turn.
“He looked like a ski jumper. He landed perfectly square. The next turn, his hip was on the ground,” coach Veth said. “It was a phenomenal run.”
The clock agreed. In a race where competitors are often separated by one- or two-tenths of a second, he carried nearly a half-second lead to the win.
His edge comes largely from the way he selects his line. While other racers may try to take the shortest line through the gates, Nicholas Veth is not afraid to take a slightly wider turn — forcing him to cover a little more acreage on his run — that allowed his skis to flow through the turn better.
“That really has been his power in Super G. When everyone else is hanging on, he’s gone, because he sets up his line so well,” the coach said.
It could be from practicing on Taos Ski Valley’s Lonestar run day-in and day-out, or from the fact that he started skiing at 3 years old and started racing at 7, or it could be something innate, but Nicholas Veth shows amazing intuition and fluidity on the snow.
“He feels the snow better than anybody else out there. He’s super-flexible and has a great touch,” coach Veth said. “He’s super-supple, it’s really tough to match his quickness.”
Veth largely attributes his son’s performance to the dedication he showed through the off-season, going to school in Park City, Utah, where he spent six days a week dry-land training.
“His success came this summer,” coach Veth said. “You need to be extremely fit, and Nicky was fit this year. When you’re coming in at 70 mph and you have compression on top of that, your body has to be able to handle the G-forces.”
Heading to Whistler
The win gains him an invite to the Whistler Cup on April 4, one of the most prestigious events in the world for young racers. He’s the only Rocky Mountain competitor to qualify, and one of eight from across the country.
“It’s pretty much the biggest international race that these kids can go,” Veth said. “It’s absolutely mind-boggling that Nicky, from Taos, New Mexico, is representing. It’s pretty darn incredible.”
After that, he gets bumped up to the J2s next year as a 15-year-old, and begins FIS competition. It’s just one more hurdle for the young man who took third as a J5, won the giant slalom as a J4 and is now the J3 champion.
“Next year is going to be a very challenging year, but at every age class he prevails,” Veth said.
This is the third JO champion for a Taos Ski Academy athlete. Nicholas Veth’s older sister Amanda took two giant slalom titles and the overall J4 four years ago, and Albuquerque racer Stan Sedberry has also taken the overall J4 title.
Weingartner, Jennerjahn return from JOs
Nicholas Veth was joined in Vail by teammates Tommy Weingartner and Jili Jennerjahn.
Despite only being able to practice twice a week, Weingartner posted a 58th in downhill, 38th in Super G, 35th in giant slalom and 31st in slalom.
Coach Veth said he’s an extremely athletic competitor, and a speed demon.
“It says a lot about how he lays it all out,” the coach said. “He loves to go fast, and it shows.”
Jenerjahn, a first-year J3, took 33rd in downhill, 35th in Super G, 58th in giant slalom and 47th in slalom.
Veth described her skiing as “very simple but really fast, deceivingly fast.”
“It’s like a really quiet power. She does just enough, but it looks like not enough.”