The coaches of the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) knew Harvard sophomore Rebecca Nadler had made history before she even finished the giant slalom course at Jiminy Peak in the Williams College Carnival.
“All the coaches were like ‘that’s it, race is over, she won,’” Crimson alpine coach Tim Mitchell said. “It was just one of those rare moments where you see an athlete take that step to the next level.”
When Nadler did cross that line it became official: She was the first Harvard alpine skier ever to win an EISA carnival event.
“I think it still sort of feels a little surreal,” the sophomore said. “I’m obviously really happy.”
Nadler’s win came on a challenging Jiminy Peak course that forces skiers to switch rapidly from steep slopes to flatter ground without losing speed, and the Ottawa native thrived in the challenging conditions.
Standing at five feet, Nadler does not have the leverage that many of her elite competitors have, but she makes up for it with aggression and superior technique.
“On a pretty steep course, that lower center of gravity really helps her take an aggressive line,” Mitchell said. “She can keep her skies pointed a little more down the hill.... On a steeper hill, a lot of people who maybe have some [technical] holes, stuff you could hide with strength and aggression, those flaws get a little magnified. She does not have a lot of holes in her technique.”
Mitchell attributes Nadler’s nearly flawless technique to a tireless work ethic and superior attention to detail in practice. The ski team travels up to southern New Hampshire to hit the slopes every morning, but class schedules often prevent the athletes from getting in as many runs as their EISA competitors. Yet Nadler’s mindset allows her to make important changes every run.
“She’s very good at focusing on the one of two tasks that we’re working on but not letting the rest of her skiing fall apart,” Mitchell said. “Her strong fundamentals really allow her to have a laser-like focus on the details.... She’s absolutely relentless.”
That kind of intensity in practice complements Nadler’s simplified mindset on race day.
“I was making mistakes here and there [at Jiminy Peak] but saying ‘don’t worry about it’,” she said.
“She’s got a very good perception of what works and what doesn’t,” Mitchell added. “She’s very, very insightful. She’s a very cerebral skier, but at the same time, come race day, she knows how to shut her brain off.”
Nadler’s calmness proved critical when a win in the first run of Friday’s giant slalom put her in an unfamiliar position.
“I’d never won the first run before,” she said. “I was really excited, but I had to keep my emotions in check.”
“She won the first run by like two-tenths of a second,” Mitchell continued. “So there’s a lot of pressure there. It’s very easy to ski cautiously and try not to lose.”