Edie Thys Morgan
Photo: GEPA pictures
In this recent article on development, Swampy LaMarche offered an observation. Once you’ve started breaking through on the national level, it takes ten years to fully establish oneself on the World Cup in speed. Jared Goldberg, Goldie to his teammates, is Exhibit A. The 31-year-old from Utah, heading into his 11th year on the US Ski Team, raced his first World Cup Downhill in 2012. When asked when he felt comfortable and settled on the circuit, like he belonged there, he said, “Honestly, it was last year.”
In Goldberg’s experience working his way up the ladder, he’s learned a lot. Mostly, he’s learned to trust himself and his abilities, especially when times are tough. He took some time out from his final dryland training block before getting on snow in Chile to share some of what he’s learned.
GOLDBERG IN THE GATE
Goldberg first learned to ski at Killington. When he was four years old, his parents Don and Annette, both avid skiers and outdoor athletes, moved the family to Utah. At age six, he joined Snowbird’s ski team. While attending public school in Salt Lake, his on-mountain ski education was the standard Little Cottonwood curriculum. It featured fast, big-mountain, all-weather, all-terrain, free skiing punctuated with deep powder and frequent cliff-jumping.
By high school, some of his friends went to the Winter School in Park City or independent racing programs. Goldberg opted to stay put in public school, at Skyline High. “I had to do a lot of schmoozing with the teachers,” explains Goldberg. He started by meeting with the principal to explain his ski racing goals, which included going to the Olympics. Duly impressed, the principal then encouraged his teachers to work with him to achieve that vision. He arranged his schedule to free up afternoons and some days midweek, and carpooled to after school training at Snowbird. “It was a lot of work, but I am so glad I stayed in a regular school.”
He also managed to play for the golf team his senior year. By then Goldberg had joined up with Team Flow, traveling to New Zealand for camps and races in the summer. After graduating, he joined Team Flow full time for a PG year.
D TEAM, C TEAM, and PLAN B
In the spring of 2010, at age 19, Goldberg qualified for the D Team at a walk-on camp. The following season he had to try out again, and this time he made the C Team. Goldberg had also established a good training relationship with University of Utah athletes and coaches, and had a roster spot if needed. “It was important that I always knew that that would be there for me,” says Goldberg. He had USST teammates without that security in place. “I’d see them on the phone with coaches before the season was over, trying to get ahead of the curve to ski for college,” says Goldberg.
In those days, before athletes were guaranteed two years of team status (Goldberg applauds the current policy of two year-tenure), that added pressure in an already tense environment. Meanwhile, Goldberg was able to race with a clear head and commitment all year. “That helped me keep my eye on the prize, and working towards my ultimate dream of World Cup racing.”
A FAST START AND SETTLING IN FOR THE LONG HAUL
Goldberg earned his first World Cup start in November 2012 at Lake Louise. Then, the real education began. His first training run was a disaster. “I felt like I was going to die,” recalls Goldberg. As it turned out, his boots were canted three degrees out, and he had adjusted his technique to compensate for the misalignment. “When you’re a younger athlete, there’s so many different people touching your stuff, so it’s not always as dialed in as it should be,” explains Goldberg. Boot savant Hubert Immler (profiled here in SRM) worked to remedy the problem, while Goldberg recalibrated his skiing. The following week, at his second World Cup ever, in the Beaver Creek Super G, Goldberg scored his first World Cup point. A week later he won his first (of two) US National DH title.
The following season, in his first full year on the tour, Goldberg scored his first top 15, a 12th in Wengen. He also qualified for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Team, finishing 11th in Combined and 19th in GS. Four seasons later, he scored his first World Cup top 10 and qualified for his second Olympics in PyeongChang. In December of the 20/21 season, he scored 6th place in Val Gardena, inching closer to the podium. Last season, he skied with a cracked tibial plateau trying to earn one of only seven male spots on the 2022 Olympic team. He missed that goal, but he’s focused on the next step.
“GOLDIE” PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER:
As his coach, Urban Planinsek, puts it: “Podium day will come!” Planinsek describes Goldberg as “one of the best in developing speed on a WC DH tour.” He notes Goldberg’s top five training runs and winning sections as proof, though sometimes that speed backfires with mistakes. As Planinsek says, “He’s the type a that needs to go all in, and it will pay off.”
Goldberg’s journey highlights that there are no shortcuts to building experience on the World Cup tracks. It involves continually working on technique, adjusting and readjusting equipment, and building strength and resilience in body and mind. It also means knowing when, and how, to look beyond yourself for solutions.
As he learned early on, having the right equipment, and keeping it dialed in, is a constant challenge. That includes boot fit and alignment as well as all the tuning and prep issues with skis. When things feel off, it’s a tricky balance to know when it’s you and when it’s the equipment. Goldberg advises athletes to chase down every potential source of a problem, because ignoring an equipment issue can lead to technique changes that push you deeper into a hole. “I’ve just started to trust myself that I know when something’s off.” After a particularly frustrating and discouraging stretch in 2019, and with encouragement from USST alum Chad Fleischer, Goldberg tuned his own skis for the final World Cups of the season. He scored a 9th place, matching his top result thus far.
“That felt really liberating because I knew that there was something wrong and I had done everything I possibly could. Being able to show myself that I still had it was really cool. Sometimes you know deeply that you need to make a decision and just go for it.” For the past five years, Goldberg has done his own boot fitting, and the team travels with a boot grinding tool throughout the season.
A GROWTH MINDSET
The breakthroughs, when they come, have not happened magically. Rather, they have come from actively seeking and openly receiving help. “I think my parents were good at pushing me into finding a solution and asking for help,” says Goldberg. He recalls the time when he was struggling on the D Team and started reaching out to mental strength coaches. “I just knew my confidence was at the bottom of the barrel.” At a rainy race in Stowe he ran into his teammate’s mom, Barbara Ann Cochran, who does mental strength coaching (see SRM story here). The two had a good connection and started an ongoing dialogue. “She just had a really good way of simplifying things, having the mindset to enjoy the racing and the skiing and the competition.” The two remain in touch.
THE FEAR FACTOR
Crashes and injuries —from minor to career-ending— are daily realities of downhill. “I think you get more comfortable with the fear,” says Goldberg of this inescapable aspect of downhill racing. Facing down Kitzbühel is a case in point. “Every racer is terrified for their first training run at Kitzbühel,” says Goldberg. “You get a tolerance for it, and get better at dealing with it, but it’s still scary every year.” Racers rarely talk about fear, but it has a telltale sign. “When everyone’s super quiet, you know everybody’s nervous and it’s dangerous.”
2016 was one such year, and Goldberg was among the racers waiting at the start, stuck in their own heads, using every mental tactic to muster confidence and composure as the day grew darker after multiple helicopter evacuations. “I was fully suited up ready to go and basically ready to crash, because the conditions were so bad. But I had to push out of the start, because that’s what I’d worked all year for.” Ultimately, organizers stopped the race, but the scenario illustrated once again that in downhill there is no substitute for on-the-job experience.
The gift of a Snowbird ski education is free-spirited pure love of the sport. The gap, for Goldberg, was any patience for the drills that bring discipline to technique. Ultimately that gap showed through in the form of bad habits that were tough to break. “I wasn’t technically where I needed to be for World Cups, because you get exposed very quickly.” Though he has conflicting feelings about being “a robot on the side of the glacier,” Goldberg realizes that if he doesn’t reinforce technique through drills, he can’t have clean runs. “Over the last few years I’ve tried every single training run to ski as technically well as I can, and not necessarily as fast as I can.”
Even when everything is in place with equipment, technique and preparation, there is a lottery of environmental conditions. “I’ve had years where some of the courses line up well, and I feel pretty good, but everything changes every year too.” That could be hurricane force winds, as in PyeongChang, bomb holes in Kitzbühel, or drastically changing conditions during a typical race. “I don’t think people understand that if you’re starting 45th how many hours you’re starting behind number one.” Goldberg says it’s taken all nine years just to see all the conditions on every course and to be ready for anything.
GOLDBERG KEEPS IT FUN ON THE LONG ROAD
The journey between a 21-year-old rookie and consistent winners like 35-year-old Beat Feuz—who has the best equipment, the best techs, his pick of start position, and the confidence of many wins—can feel eternal. In the meantime, it’s got to be fun. “When you start looking at skiing as work, the fun meter goes down quickly,” says Goldberg, who takes every opportunity to go free skiing. “I grew up skiing a lot of powder when I was younger and doing tricks and hitting cliffs. That is what makes me feel like a little kid again. It makes me remember why I’m out there and that I’m doing what I want to do.”
A lifelong musician, Goldberg travels with a small, stowable electric travel guitar. His favorite summer training is on his mountain bike, he’s an avid surfer (he rode the deepest, darkest barrel of his life at a post training camp trip to Chile’s Punto de Lobos), and he’s been kiteboarding since he was 10. The past two years he’s gotten into wing foiling. When the wind picks up he can zip over from the COE for a session at Jordanelle Reservoir. Recently Goldberg has also upped his time on the golf links as a way to work on his mental game by simulating the nerves and pressure of competition. He’s also halfway through a degree from Westminster College and is interested in product design.
Heading to Chile, Goldberg looks to build on the momentum from last spring’s camp in Kvitfjell, NOR, which he described as “one of the best downhill speed camps I have ever done.”
For this season, he’s aiming for the podium and beyond. “I’m just trying to control everything I can and then hope and let it happen. I never give up, and that has helped me stay in the sport so long.”