Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin greets fans at Pittsfield ski shop
PITTSFIELD -- It may have been the most exciting news Mitch Plaine has received in 40 years of running Plaine's Bike, Ski & Snowboard -- with perhaps the shortest notice.
Plaine got a phone call Tuesday from Eileen Shiffrin, the mother of U.S. Olympic skier Mikaela Shiffrin. The youngest-ever Olympic slalom gold medalist was in the Berkshires, and she wanted to make an appearance at the shop Wednesday.
"We were jumping for joy," Plaine said. "Her mother called and said she would be visiting her grandmother, and she'd like to come in and sign some posters. We were just ecstatic."
So was everyone who came through Plaine's doors Wednesday evening, as Shiffrin signed autographs, snapped photos and met with hundreds of fans.
It's been a little more than a month since Shiffrin, 18, became the first American in more than 40 years to earn gold in the slalom. Since that Friday night in Sochi, Russia, it's been a whirlwind for the Colorado resident and granddaughter of Lanesborough's Pauline Condron.
That whirlwind, Shiffrin said, really hasn't stopped -- but it's been a fun ride.
"It was such an eye-opening experience, and also really humbling," she said. "It also made me just crave time in places like this -- a little bit smaller town, home time, family time. Being in Sochi for 10 days [was] this big thing.
"All I really want is to put the medal away and have this family time in a place like this, where I can see the excitement in their eyes about ski racing."
That could be clearly seen from almost everyone in line Wednesday. Micaela Bartlett, an All-Eagle Alpine skier for Monument Mountain Regional High School, was one of the first to arrive. She brought U.S. Ski Team stickers and a bib from the USSA Junior Eastern Championships for Shiffrin to sign.
Bartlett's excitement began in an otherwise-quiet place -- the classroom.
"I was in my English class yesterday, last period of the day," she said. "I got a text from my mom, saying 'Check your email.' "
"It was a clip to the Plaine's Facebook post. In my English class, I did scream out loud."
When Plaine learned Shiffrin would be in town, he quickly spread the word via social media and the Plaine's email list. Local ski groups picked up on it, and a crowd that was just a dozen at 4 p.m. turned into a line out the door by the time Shiffrin appeared at a few minutes before 5.
The same can be said of Monument skier and All-Eagle boys Alpine MVP Trent Pfeiffer. He got a poster and a card signed by Shiffrin, but didn't really talk shop, so to speak, in the time he got to meet her.
"I didn't want to keep her or anything," Pfeiffer said.
Shiffrin hasn't skied the Berkshires for quite some time, but said she always enjoyed her runs at either Jiminy Peak or Bousquet, as well as the chance to meet the skiers of the Berkshires.
"Everybody's so grounded," she said. "It's one thing to connect with fans that are like, 'Hi, you should follow my Instagram.' I'm like, 'I don't actually know you personally.' "
"It's nice to come here. It's really refreshing. Kids just say, 'I'm a ski racer and you're inspiring,' and that's it. ... That makes me want to keep inspiring people."