Hero’s welcome: U.S. Olympian and Charlemont resident Paula Moltzan returns home after Beijing

  • U.S. Olympic skier Paula Moltzan gives a high five to one of the many children who watched her rip down Berkshire East's Competition trail Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • U.S. Olympic skier Paula Moltzan signed autographs and talked to folks during her Olympic homecoming event at Berkshire East on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • U.S. Olympic skier Paula Moltzan signed autographs and talked to folks during her Olympic homecoming event at Berkshire East on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Adrian Grant, a 14-year-old Mohawk Trail Regional School student, holds up a ski pole that U.S. Olympian Paula Moltzan signed Saturday at Berkshire East. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • U.S. Olympic Skier Paula Moltzan signs an autograph for G. Pica-Smith, 10, during her homecoming event at Berkshire East Saturday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • U.S. Olympic skier Paula Moltzan kicked off her homecoming event at Berkshire East Saturday by ripping down the resort's Competition trail in front of a large crowd of onlookers. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • U.S. Olympic skier Paula Moltzan kicked off her homecoming event at Berkshire East Saturday by ripping down the resort’s Competition trail in front of a large crowd of onlookers. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 3/27/2022 7:14:46 PM
Modified: 3/27/2022 7:13:49 PM

CHARLEMONT — Slicing down Berkshire East’s Competition trail, U.S. Skier Paula Moltzan was greeted by a crowd of onlookers as the resort gave the Charlemont resident a hero’s welcome after returning from the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Moltzan, who moved to Charlemont in 2015, mingled with folks at the bottom of the trail as she signed autographs, posed for photos and even shared some advice with some of the younger skiers and snowboarders in the crowd.

“It really is heartwarming,” Moltzan said in the ski lodge. “The entire community makes it feel like my hometown.”

Dana Warren, a 14-year-old Hampshire Regional High School student, was the first of many kids who swarmed Moltzan to take pictures and to greet the Olympic athlete.

“It was really great to meet someone like that,” Warren said, adding that she asked Moltzan for advice on how to prepare for race days, which the professional skier happily provided. “It’s really amazing.”

Adrian Grant, a 14-year-old Shelburne Falls resident, said it was awesome to meet Moltzan, whom Grant saw as an inspiration during her first season on the Mohawk Trail Regional School ski team. Adrian said she didn’t know who Moltzan was before this year, but after finding out she was a Franklin County resident, Adrian said she cheered her on throughout the competition.

“Knowing that you’re talking to someone with so much experience,” Grant said, “it’s my first year racing on my ski team and meeting her is boosting for me.”

Moltzan said talking to the kids was a great experience and added she remembers “looking up to athletes” when she was young, which makes it so fulfilling to “be able to the be that person for someone else.”

“They’re so cute and they’re so inspiring,” she said.

Moltzan, a Minnesota native, is engaged to Ryan Mooney, whose family owns Crab Apple Whitewater, and moved to Charlemont in 2015. She joined the U.S. Ski Team at age 17 and spent five years on it before leaving her home state to attend the University of Vermont in 2017, where she captured an NCAA championship. She was then able to re-earn her spot on the U.S. Ski Team a few years later.

“I love Western Mass.,” Moltzan said.

In Beijing, Moltzan represented the U.S. in the slalom events, where she placed eighth in the slalom and 12th in the giant slalom. She also helped the U.S. earn fourth place in the team event. In both individual events, Moltzan was the highest-placing American skier.

On her time in Beijing, Moltzan said it was a unique experience based on pandemic restrictions and the snow conditions, but she will remember the people she met over there.

“It was different, but it was great,” Moltzan said. “I’ll remember how kind the people were.”

Berkshire East Manager and Owner Jon Schaefer said the homecoming event was a huge success and they organized it during the Olympics in the hopes that Moltzan’s travel schedule worked out — and that the snow would stick around, of which Schaefer said they “hung on by the skin of our teeth.” Marketing Manager Nathan Marr said this was likely the last weekend of the year as the weather warms up and they had 93 people sign up to race down the hill during the event.

Schaefer said the event was a good way to stoke people’s interest in skiing, especially in all of the children who were present.

“Ski racing is done at the Olympic level and the grassroots level,” Schaefer said. “Getting these kids fired up is awesome.”

G. Pica-Smith, a 10-year-old Easthampton resident, said it was “really, really fun” to meet the Olympian and that Moltzan’s tenacity is her most inspiring trait.

“She’s really, really persistent,” Pica-Smith said, “and she keeps on going.”

Looking over the horde of kids surrounding the raffle table where Moltzan was signing posters, Schaefer said he was “very happy” with the outcome of the event and the amount of fun everyone was having.

“When you have a lodge full of kids and families,” Shaefer said, “it doesn’t get any better.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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