February 15, 1997 in Voices

Ski racer back up to speed

John Miller The Spokesman-Review
 

One of the first signs that something was wrong with Aaron Weyrauch appeared on a credit card bill he ran up last winter while at a downhill ski race in Bend, Ore.

These weren’t the normal charges you might think a young ski racer might run up during a week away from home. No new skis. No late-night pizza binges. Instead, two full pages of the bill Weyrauch’s mother received were charges for athletic drinks.

“I didn’t feel like I was dehydrated,” said Weyrauch, now a 15-year-old freshman at East Valley High School. “I was just thirsty all the time.”

From that point onward, Weyrauch’s once promising racing season dissolved into one of frustration. His ordinarily resilient body became exhausted after the slightest exertion. He still managed to qualify for the Junior Olympics in Jackson Hole, Wyo., based on scoring from early season racing. But he managed just a top-30 finish there. For somebody accustomed to being in the top 10, Weyrauch found his poor performance baffling.

“I knew I was skiing good lines, but I couldn’t understand why I was skiing so slow,” he said, explaining that his legs were too tired to “get the snap out of the ski coming out of a gate.”

A month later, after the slim racer’s weight had dropped 30 pounds, doctors diagnosed Weyrauch with diabetes. The disease, which inhibits the pancreas’s ability to produce insulin, was slowly wasting him away.

“I gained back 10 pounds back after only a week in the hospital,” he says, adding that his mom also forgave him for the sports-drink laced credit card bill. “I think she still has the receipt. She showed everybody.”

Weyrauch - his weight back to normal as a result of three insulin shots he gives himself every day - is again on track to qualify for the Junior Olympics, to be held this year at Bozeman, Mont. At a race at Schweitzer Mountain Resort in January, Weyrauch finished 12th, sixth and second in three super-G runs against 93 other skiers in his age group.

Ironically, however, when the snow began to fall three months ago, Weyrauch had decided not to return to ski racing.

Even though he could now logically explain the frustration from last season, Weyrauch says his confidence level had been affected.

“Underneath, there was still that doubt,” he says. “How will I ski this year?” His family, which had previously skied at Mount Spokane, where Weyrauch was on the racing team, bought passes at Schweitzer for a change of pace, and Aaron had his sights set on the fun of recreational skiing.

Until he saw the Schweitzer racing team practicing.

“I like the snow, and I like going fast,” he says. “I just couldn’t stand not racing.”

David Ojala, director of Schweitzer’s racing program, said that for ski racers Weyrauch’s age, the intrinsic drive and fascination with the sport is just as important as the sport’s more subtle, technical aspects - working the ski from tip to tail, hip angulation, gliding.

“There is plenty of technical refinement in the future, but Aaron’s already got the fuel,” Ojala said. “He’s wound up, ready to go.”

Kavin Jones, the University High School graduate who is the coach of Schweitzer’s junior team, said he’s impressed by Weyrauch’s devotion to skiing. Jones said that when the team is done running gates in the afternoon and some of the kids slide on back to the lodge, Weyrauch always takes a few more runs.

Even after the disappointing showing in Jackson Hole last year, Weyrauch went free skiing to blow off steam - and ended up jumping into Corbett’s Couloir alongside Tommy Moe, the 1992 Olmpic gold medalist. Moe broke his pole on the plus-50 foot drop. Weyrauch proudly recalls skiing away with his equipment intact.

“ Aaron loves to ski, no matter what,” Jones says. “It doesn’t matter what the weather is, or what the weather isn’t. He’ll stay up and make some more turns.”


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