by BRANDON MOON & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & L & lt;/span & ocal ski racer Will Brandenburg is seeing his boyhood dream unfold before his very eyes. The Mead High School grad and Schweitzer Alpine Racing School alumnus is on the fast track to the big time. Last season, Will was on the US Ski Team Development Team and had several notable finishes, which led to his award as Ski Racing magazine's, "2007 Junior Skier of the Year." Steve Mahre and Tommy Moe are past recipients. Will has also caught the eye of US Ski Team head coach Phil McNichol: "[Brandenburg] has had a tremendous movement on his rankings, tremendous success in some events, and clearly is one of our hot and up-and-coming guys." Which is why Will has moved from the Devo team, bypassing the C team, to land a spot on the US Ski Team B squad this season. From here, he will compete in the Europa Cup and hopefully get his first start in a World Cup race in Italy this December, something he has dreamed about since he was six years old.
His coaches have Will focusing on slalom and giant slalom this season, but he's a rising talent in speed events as well. His coaching staff suggests his becoming stronger during his preseason conditioning will help him succeed in '08. Will has already shown great promise as the top US finisher (9th) at the US Alpine Super series at Keystone, Colo., in late November. He also was a forerunner for giant slalom at the Beaver Creek, Colo., World Cup races.
I caught up with Will just as he was about to board a flight from Denver to Europe on his way to his first stop at the US Training camp in Italy. I asked him what it's like hanging with the big dogs of the US Ski Team. His response was not surprising in that last season, as a member of the development team, he was somewhat starstruck, but noted how quickly his teammates accepted him into their fraternity of America's best ski racers.
"It has been really amazing to get to know all of the guys. Everyone helps each other out during training," said Will, who turns 21 on New Year's Day. "It has been really cool getting to know them personally, especially Eric Schlopy. He has been an idol of mine since I was a kid. [Ted] Ligety is skiing really well this season. He's on fire and skiing fast. He currently holds the leader bib for FIS GS [giant slalom] points." As for being around other teams from around the world, Will said that the North American [US and Canada] teams stay pretty tight, but skiers from all the other countries are really friendly as well.
Will is not a stranger to Europe. He has raced there three seasons while working his way up the ladder of skiing success. I asked him about what he thought about the food. "At first it didn't agree with me too well, but now I like it a lot," he said. "The pizza is really good, Schnitzel is great, too, and you have got to love the pasta."
Will expects to spend most of December, January and February with the team in Europe. Spending three months skiing in Europe may sound glorious, but it is by no means a vacation. He will come home for a few days over Christmas, with a one-week break between January and February. Other than that, Will's life will consist of racing, training, schedules, really small hotel rooms, trains, planes and automobiles. Something tells me, though, that Will is OK with it. After all, he is living his dream.
To keep up with Will over the winter, bookmark his Website, www.willbrandenburgusa.com and you will probably see some history being made.
Brandon "Moondog" Moon is a Sandpoint native. He raced in Europe the last three seasons, and now hopes to do some coaching. Moondog strongly disagrees with Will that European pizza is good. Cardboard covered with ketchup, cheese, corn and salami does not constitute pizza.