Ben Verge is a freeskiing coach of a handful of young athletes, mostly newcomers to the scene. But his athletes are already achieving success in the form of contest podiums. Verge coaches Wing Tai Barrymore and Brita Sigourney, who both earned U.S. Grand Prix Halfpipe wins in December and podium finishes at the recent Winter Dew Tour stop in Killington. He also coaches Colter Bremmer and Maddie Bowman (Bowman just won the Dew Tour at Killington). A former ski racer who started his coaching career at Idaho's Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, Verge is now leading athletes into this week's Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo.
Tai Barrymore has had a breakout season so far this year. What's the strategy behind his success?
I think it has been his consistency, his focus and his coachability as a newer athlete to the scene. I knew this was coming for him eventually, I just didn't realize how fast it would pay off. I know how capable he is but it's only his fourth year in the pipe and he is still the typical 19-year-old who refuses to smile in photos and can't keep the names of the other competitors straight. Tai grew up in the motocross world and with his family being who they are in the ski world [Wing Tai's family is of ski film Barrymore fame], and he is still just the unfazed, focused, death metal-loving kid who listens to Iron Maiden at the top of a run.
I can't imagine Brita listening to death metal at the top of her runs.
No, Brita's key to success is just having fun and enjoying skiing. Before her runs, we sit at the top and talk, acting like it's just a normal day of skiing. She had some great results last season [she got second in her first Winter X appearance last year] but it was a hard year for her. She came back from an injury, only to get hurt again. She's crazy talented and when her mind is there, she excels. She could win any day.
Is that a Winter X Games prediction?
I see big things happening in Aspen for Brita. With only eight girls, there are no semi-finals. So it's a field stacked of girls who each could win. For Tai, with his unbelievably competitive head, he really has every ability to be on the podium. On the top of the podium for that matter.
What do you think of the old adage, "Those who can't do, teach?"
I absolutely cannot do what they do. These are the best skiers in the world and we are talking about their 30-year-old coach. At this level, a lot of the tricks come out of the skiers themselves and my job is to match the reality with what they see in their minds. So coaching isn't always about doing. It's about a strong foundation, training and especially strategy.