Eagle-Vail’s Byrne named to U.S. Ski Team | VailDaily.com

Eagle-Vail’s Byrne named to U.S. Ski Team

Ian Smith
ismith@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyVail's Greta Byrne compets in the slalom at an event earlier this year. This past week, Byrne was named to the U.S. Ski Team.
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VAIL, Colorado ” Greta Byrne should be one happy birthday girl on Tuesday.

Yes, the Eagle-Vail resident will able to get her driver’s license. But, believe it or not, Byrne’s already received a much better present.

The nearly 16-year-old Byrne is a officially a member of the U.S. Ski Team after being named to the development squad this past week.

“It was an exciting surprise,” Byrne said. “I didn’t think it was going to happen. Being on the ski team was always one of my goals.

“This is a good birthday present.”

Byrne wasted little time in grabbing her dream thanks to her knack for steering quickly down the race course. At the J2 Junior Olympics in March in Aspen, she captured gold in the slalom and fifth in the downhill.

The ability to compete in opposite disciplines is a big reason why she earned a spot on the U.S. squad. She joins an elite group being named to the team at age 15. The last three skiers to make the squad at 15 were Lindsey Vonn, Sarah Schleper and Julia Mancuso. That’s as good as it gets.

So how did Byrne react when her dad, Mike, told her the news?

“I was just kind of like quiet,” she said. “Then I started him a bunch of questions he didn’t know the answers too.”

Byrne will start getting answers soon enough. Already she is on her way to Mount Bachelor, Ore., for two weeks of training. After that, it’s on to Park City, Utah to check out the U.S. Ski Team’s new headquarters.

Starting early

Like any good prodigy, Byrne started showing her talent at an early age. She first clicked into skis at age 2 and started racing at 9. Soon medals followed and Byrne’s career took off.

“That was her thing early on ” she loved to ski,” Mike said. “It was always her thing.”

It helped that the Greta could literally ski into her backyard at Sugarloaf Ski Resort in Maine. Greta and her sister, Caroline, spent countless afternoons climbing up the mountain and skiing back down.

“It was so nice,” Greta said. “That’s what I miss most ” being right on the mountain and being to go skiing whenever we wanted. It’s sad that we left, but I love Colorado.”

The Byrne family made the move to Vail four years ago to hone their skiing skills even farther.

“We came out here and never left,” Mike said. “The kids loved it.”

Supporting cast

When the U.S. Ski Team came calling it wasn’t just a big day for Greta. There were a number of people who helped push her along the way. Vail residents have probably heard of one Greta’s biggest supporters ” Schleper.

The two first met at a summer ski camp at Mount Hood. Immediately, they hit it off. Schleper, of course, is a World Cup veteran with numerous podiums under her belt.

“She is kind of like my idol,” Greta said. “I like her as a coach. She had hands-on experience. It was nice to see her perspective on ski racing.”

Since that first meeting, Schleper became a family friend who could offer advice or encouragement when needed.

“Sarah’s been great to our kids,” Mike said. “She felt real comfortable that for Greta this was something that could be her thing.”

Others pitched in, too. Rick and Jan Sackbauer let Greta stay with them for a few months at a time here in there until the whole Byrne clan could get settled in Vail. The town of Medford, N.J. was a place where Greta could get away and hang out with family and friends if needed.

Let’s not forget Ski and Snowboard Club Vail. Coaches and teachers at the Ski and Snowboard Club Academy were there every step of the way.

“They’re motivated,” Mike said of SSCV. “It’s just a very motivated group. It starts with Aldo Radamus. He’s a big reason why we are here.”

From the sounds of it, the newest member of the U.S. Ski Team might already have one of the biggest fan followings.

Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or ismith@vaildaily.com.