Matthew Brewer at the U.S. Para Alpine Ski training camp in Norway.
For the two newest members of the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Skiing team, the recent national team training camp in Norway represented a crucial puzzle piece of their careers locking into place.
Both Matthew Brewer and Patrick Halgren spent years training to reach the highest level of their sport. Both men made the U.S. Paralympic Team and competed earlier this year in Beijing. But receiving their email invitations to join the national team and attending a pre-season training camp provided a glimpse of a life made simpler by skiing.
“I want to be the best skier in the world,” Halgren said. “And with the national team, with the isolated coaching, with the physical therapist, the doctors and all the resources, I really can see how I’m going to become the best in the world.”
“It really helped me understand the level of commitment the USOPC is putting into us as athletes,” Brewer said.
For Halgren — who splits his year between Colorado and New Zealand to always have winter conditions — having his training centralized and his coaches and teammates familiar with what Para athletes need, he says, will be life-changing. He received the letter inviting him onto the national team on his 30th birthday in June.
“All my dreams are coming true,” he said.
And the opportunity to train in a beautiful place was a plus.
“I lived in New Zealand for two years, and I didn’t think I’d see a more beautiful landscape,” Halgren said. “But Norway was like that on steroids, bigger and better.”
Halgren, a standing skier, also said that training with the Norwegian men’s and women’s national teams while at the camp was both a humbling and an emboldening experience.
“These are bona fide superstars in the skiing world, and we’re skiing with them all day,” he said. But after following them down a few runs and mimicking their body positions, Halgren said, “that was like, OK, this is where the bar is at. It really puts it into perspective.”
Brewer, a 47-year-old sit-skier, is in his own words, “old enough to be most of my teammates’ dads.” The Huntington Beach, California, native did not even have the national team in his sights before he made the team for Beijing. The Paralympics marked his first international competition ever, he said, and kept him busy experiencing career firsts.
“Paralympics, check. International competition, check. Pushing out of the start in front of TV cameras, check,” he said.
His goal, he said, was always the 2026 Paralympics in Italy; making the 2022 team accelerated his success, but also created more stress.
“I had just started dreaming about it,” Brewer said of making the national team. “I hadn’t even really set that as a solid goal yet.”
Halgren and Brewer praised the camp format, including its focus on strength and conditioning.
“It wasn’t stressful, like a race,” Brewer said. “It was just a fundamentals camp that really focused on the basics of proper ski racing.”
Halgren said he appreciated the ski drills that were developed just for him.
“Specifically telling a guy with one leg what a good drill for him (is), where his hips should be,” he said. “It’s kind of what I already do, but the quality is way higher.”
“Having other people there that have similar disabilities to me was super helpful,” Brewer added.
They also noted a concerted effort to build team culture, something Brewer had discussed with Tony McAllister, the associate director of Para alpine high performance for the U.S., prior to accepting his national team invitation. While Brewer was competing in Beijing, he said, he noticed what he called a “disconnection” among his teammates. Now the team feels more cohesive, and McAllister has made good on his promise to improve transparency in his decision-making, Brewer said.
Halgren said the personal attention and concern from his coach was noteworthy. In fact, McAllister helped Halgren — who by his own admission has been singularly focused on skiing for many years and had not learned to use his own computer beyond making ski videos for self-promotional purposes — adapt his computer to be more of an organizational tool and set up email and the calendar.
Brewer said that he is excited to experience competition season this year. He has not yet competed in a world cup meet or at a world championships, though he’s aiming to reach at podium this year as he starts building up race experience in the leadup to 2026.
Halgren, too, hopes to have a competitive race on the world cup circuit.
“I think it’s going to be tough,” he said, “because the competition in Europe is like nothing I’ve seen. The quality is so much higher, and the quantity (too.)”
But Halgren’s biggest dream is a full slate of gold medals in Italy come 2026.
In the meantime, though, it’s back to basics. The team will train in Switzerland before competitions begin in the late fall. Both Halgren and Brewer had palpable emotion in their voices speaking about their experiences as the newest members of the Para alpine ski national team.
“I’m tearing up just thinking about it,” Brewer said.
“It was the best experience of my life,” Halgren agreed.