Three generations of skimeisters
The ConVal Nordic ski team hosted its only meet of the season on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2012.
(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
Not many 17 year old high school students can claim they are retiring. Ben Wescott has earned this privilege. After continuing a family legacy of skiing excellence that has spanned three generations, Wescott plans to travel south and pursue his greatest passion; golf.
The Wescott skiing legacy began with Harold Wescott. Growing up in Laconia, Harold took to alpine skiing’s competitive nature at a young age. While attending Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, he continued to polish his skiing, picking up on the Nordic discipline. This led to Harold pursuing the skimeister competition, which challenges its competitors to excel in both alpine and Nordic skiing.
Harold attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., where he enjoyed continued success in both Nordic and ski jumping.
“He ski jumped on wooden skis, which I think is the craziest thing ever,” the youngest Wescott skier, Ben, said in a recent interview.
After graduating, Harold began to compete in alpine races in the masters division. It wasn’t long before he began earning regional and national recognition. Harold continued competitive ski racing right up until his death on Feb. 12, 2012, just shy of his 81st birthday.
Harold died during an alpine ski race at the Ski Cooper resort in Colorado, while going 61 miles an hour down a mountain – “the way he wanted to go,” according to his son, William.
Although Harold passed, the Wescott family skiing legacy was survived by his son William, thanks to Harold’s teaching.
William Wescott grew up skiing at Gunstock Mountain in Gilford. Taking lessons from his father beginning at age 5, William began to share the family passion.
William attended Gilford High School, competing in the skimeister competition. Having enjoyed great success in alpine racing, William then attended the University of New Hampshire, skiing on the alpine team.
After graduating from UNH, William began to compete in the masters division, following in the footsteps of his father. William’s time on the masters circuit was cut short by a request from his son Ben, who wanted him to teach him how to ski. At the age of 3, Ben was able to convince his dad to stop alpine racing in the masters division. Ben learned to alpine ski at Pats Peak in Henniker, taking to the sport just as fast as his father and grandfather. Beginning his competitive skiing career at age 6, Ben was one of the members of the inaugural class of the Crotched Junior Alpine Racing Club. Ben began Nordic skiing at age 12, taking to that discipline quickly as well under his father’s tutelage.
When it came time for Ben to begin high school, he chose to follow the family tradition and compete for the skimeister title. “Knowing his father and grandfather did skimeister, Ben decided to try it and loved it,”said William.
Ben’s Nordic skills increased under the coaching of ConVal’s Scott McGovern, and he quickly became one of the team’s leaders.
“Ben is a very good athlete who was very focused on his goals each year,” said McGovern.
“The [Nordic] team became a second family,” said Kate Wescott, Ben’s mother. “Scott McGovern draws the best out of the kids on the team. “He really pushed Ben along.”
During his sophomore and junior seasons, Ben earned the bronze medal, leading to high expectations for his senior campaign.
On Feb. 11, Ben competed in the Division II alpine state championships at Waterville Valley Resort. Competitors ski two runs of slalom in the morning, followed by two runs of giant slalom in the afternoon. Ben placed 17th in the slalom and 20th in the giant slalom. “For the skimeister competition, you have to make sure you complete each run. If you fall and don’t record a time, you are disqualified from the skimeister competition,” Ben explained. “I made sure I finished each run cleanly, and went as fast as I could without falling, which is difficult because I know I could have done a lot better had I tried to ski harder.” Keeping his goal of being skimeister in mind, Ben was not disappointed with his alpine results.
The next day, Ben competed in the Division II Nordic state championships on the Great Glen trails at the base of Mount Washington. Finishing 18th in the freestyle race and 17th in the classic discipline, Ben was pleased with his final high school race. “I feel like I did fantastic, I pushed myself as hard as I could, left it all out there to finish my ski career,” Ben said.
Ben’s combined finishes at both state meets earned him a silver medal in the skimeister competition, continuing the Wescott skimeister legacy. He was presented the medal on Feb. 12, exactly two years to the day that his grandfather Harold passed away on the slopes. “It didn’t dawn on us until after the day was over,” recalled Kate. “We like to think even though [Harold] passed, he was still around.” Ben’s achievement marked a fitting end to a successful ConVal skiing career. “I’ll miss skiing at ConVal,” Ben said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Next fall, Ben will head south to Fayetteville, N.C., to attend Methodist University. He will be enrolled in the professional golfers management program. Giving up competitive skiing is “bittersweet,” according to Ben, but what he learned in his years of competition can be applied as he moves on toward a career in golf.
“Skiing taught me that hard work pays off,” Ben said. Having been golfing since he was 12, Ben is excited for the opportunity to pursue his lifelong dream.
“Hopefully I’ll make it big in the golf industry on day,” he said.
Ben has no regrets with how his skiing career went, and claims that he will still ski recreationally, “when I come back to New Hampshire,” he said.