Former Hanover Coach’s Business Serves Elite Athletes
George Merrill, owner of ARTECH, scrapes wax from his personal training skis at his company's headquarters in Enfield, N.H., on February 12, 2014. Merrill usually leaves such work to technician John Goss, but he was waxing his skis for a training session at Cochrane's ski area in Richmond, Vt., later that night. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
A helmet signed by Olympic alpine skier Ted Ligety rests next to new skis for sale at ARTECH in Enfield, N.H., on February 12, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Enfield Center — George Merrill spent 35 years as a Richmond Middle School physical education teacher and a combined 48 seasons as Hanover High’s boys soccer and skiing coach, winning a total of 24 New Hampshire state championships along the way.
In retirement, Merill has kept equally busy — and perhaps even more successful.
Merrill, 65, is enjoying a second career as the owner and manager of Alpine Racing Technology (ARTECH), one of the nation’s largest alpine ski racing equipment distribution centers.
Operating from a newly-constructed, 2,800-square-foot barn-style building in Enfield Center, Merill and his eight employees help maintain and supply hundreds of high-end skis and accessories to athletes around the world.
With top-line brands such as Head, Fischer and Volkl in stock, ARTECH’s products are the same lines that have suited numerous World Cup athletes and Olympians, including Sochi Winter Games competitors Mikaela Shiffrin, Julia Ford, Bode Miller, Andrew Weibrecht and Ted Ligety.
All of Merrill’s skis meet USSA and FIS specification standards, and athletes registered in those circuits are eligible for discounts. It’s helped ARTECH build relationships with elite athletes far and wide, fitting international talent such as Norway’s Aksel Svindal and Slovenia’s Tina Maze along with its U.S.-based clients.
ARTECH began 25 years ago as a small operation out of the sewing room in Merrill’s Lebanon home. His wife, Pat, handled the majority of the paperwork and other duties. In 1998, the company became the country’s first online ski racing business, Merrill said, and today he estimates 95 percent of the orders come through its website, www.artechski.com.
The sales and breadth of the business has roughly quadrupled in size since he retired from coaching in 2002, and gotten even bigger since he left teaching in 2008.
“I used to get home at 6 o’clock after practice and be on the phone (taking ski orders) until 10, and it just got to be too much,” said Merrill, who earned 395 wins and 10 state tiles with the Hanover boys soccer team and another 14 boys and girls skiing championships. “The orders just kept getting bigger and bigger.”
Merrill’s first catalog was four pages; this year’s is 167. Products range from skis, helmets and race suits to shin and forearm guards, various clothing and accessories such as bags and electric boot- and glove-dryers.
ARTECH also supplies a vast array of waxes and tuning kits, and Merrill hasn’t fully gotten away from teaching. He’s produced a nine-part, free video tutorial series, available online, in hopes of educating his client base about routine maintenance such as base repair, tool selection and edge beveling.
“That’s actually something we’ve worked really hard at, because we want our customers to be educated about the products and taking care of them,” Merrill said. “Educated customers are more likely to stay involved with the sport.”
Ski tuning services are offered at the shop and performed by John Goss, a Lebanon resident and former multi-discipline skier at Lebanon High. He keeps busy shaping the angles on skis for a client base that is naturally picky about its products.
“Ski racers are very particular about the shape and the edges of their skis, because it makes a big difference when they’re competing,” Goss said. “I treat a lot of skis, depending on how many we sell in a day. Sometimes on top of the orders, people will walk in with skis, sometimes 2-3 pairs, sometimes 10-12, so it’s hard to predict.”
A U.S. Ski Team racer in the 1960s, Merrill also spent time coaching ski jumpers at the Lebanon Outing Club. He was the head ski coach at Hanover High School and oversaw the entire program.
Merrill still misses coaching the Hanover soccer team. His 395 wins with the Marauders are third all-time in New Hampshire high school annals.
“I miss the kids. I was fortunate to coach a lot of very talented athletes,” Merrill said. “I miss all the healthy competitive rivalries with guys like (former Lebanon High boys coach) Denis Reisch, who coached my son (Peter), and guys like Mike Callanan, who we scrimmaged every year when he coached at Oxbow.”
Merrill continues to ski up to five times per week, training with peers at Whaleback Mountain and recently returning to competition in the New England Masters circuit after recovering from a foot injury.
He finds his job even more rewarding, as evidenced by the autographed pictures from elite skiers donning the walls of the shop.
“Catering to all of these great athletes is a lot of fun, and I’ve got a really great staff of people working here,” he said. “That’s what makes it all worth it.”
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.
George Merrill was the head ski coach at Hanover High School and oversaw the entire program. But ski jumpers Jeff Hastings and the Holland brothers, who later went on to compete in the Olympics, were trained mainly by Ford Sayer coaches. Merrill's role in their training was incorrectly described in an earlier version of this story.
The name of Merrill's company, Alpine Racing Technology, was previously incorrect. Also, while Alpine Racing Technology carries the same equipment and products as those used by athletes now competing in the Sochi Olympic Games, Merrill did not supply them.
Finally, skier Tina Maze is representing Slovenia in Sochi. Her nationality was previously incorrect.