KETCHUM - It was on the slopes of Dollar Mountain that Ben Verge fell in love with the sport of skiing. Now more than 30 years later, Verge is heading to his second Olympic Games where he'll help guide a group of young skiers in their quest for gold.
When the Sun Valley native looks back on his time coaching at the 2014 Sochi Games, it's the sheer magnitude of the event that stands out.
"It definitely just feels huge when you’re there," he said. "And just representing your country and all the other athletes are there and all the sports that are happening, it just changes the whole vibe."
As the U.S. freeskiing halfpipe coach, Verge was a the helm when freeskiing made its Olympic halfpipe debut four years ago.
"The pressure was bigger than you could imagine," he said.
And what a debut it was. With Maddie Bowman and David Wise grabbing double gold for the Americans, Verge became the first coach to ever win gold in skiing halfpipe for Team USA.
"It’s definitely an honor to know that’s going to be on my resume... for the rest of my life, and it’s just always something that we’ll have," Verge said.
Born into a family of skiers in the Wood River Valley, Verge says he had no choice but to spend every free moment he had on the hill. Not that he minded, of course.
"I still like skiing as much as I did when I was eight years old," he said. "It’s just so fun here."
And now Verge's legacy as a coach is sewn squarely into the fabric of this town rich in Olympic history. A thought that he calls humbling.
"When you do take a step back and see all of the people and all of the athletes here that have gone to the Olympics, it’s definitely an honor to even be mentioned with them," he said. "It’s a good feeling to know that we’re part of something bigger."
Verge says he isn't done yet. As he looks towards the PyeongChang Games, the goal is to meet and even exceed Team USA's performance in Sochi.
"I would say our crew of skiers is skiing as well, if not better, than we were going into the last Olympics," he said.
Now seasoned sophomores, Verge says his team is taking a new approach to the Games - skipping the opening ceremonies in favor of more training in Japan. It's a veteran move that Verge hopes will bring home more hardware for Team USA.
"Hopefully we see some more medals."
Here's the schedule of freeskiing halfpipe events, including links to watch them live:
-Women's Qualifying: Sunday, Feb. 18, 6:00 p.m. MT
-Women's Final: Monday, Feb. 19, 6:30 p.m. ET
-Men's Qualifying: Monday, Feb. 19, 9:00 p.m. ET
-Men's Final: Wednesday, Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m. ET
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