CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Jared Goldberg skied down the trail he had traversed over and over — “a million times,” he said. But he didn’t see what was sitting underneath it.

He didn’t see the remaining trunk of a fallen tree, buried beneath the heavier-than-usual snow cover. But he soon felt it. He felt it when his left ski jammed into the stump, and when his body weight surged forward. And when his left ankle, locked in place in the ski boot, couldn’t hold up against the sudden shift in physics.

The Achilles tendon snapped. Goldberg went tumbling. And when the shock wore off and the magnitude of the situation settled in for the 25-year-old rising speed skiing star, dread and despair followed.

But they didn’t stay long.

“It was devastating at the time for a few minutes,” he said. “Then I was already back into comeback mode.”

Nearly a full year later, comeback mode is treating Goldberg well. The Holladay, Utah resident was at the U.S. giant slalom championship at Sugarloaf Mountain on Tuesday, carving runs through the fog en route to a 13th-place finish and showing no ill effects of the injury from the previous March. It was just the latest chapter in a recovery that has seen Goldberg, 25, return to racing, challenge at the World Cup and get himself back on track for a second Winter Olympic appearance.

“(It) took a little bit of time, but I was up to speed by the end of January. I felt like I was starting to get back to normal,” he said. “I’m finally getting the mileage back where I can just go ski and not be thinking about my skiing as much.”

That feeling can be considered a victory after the injury that threatened the rise of what appeared to be a rising Olympic and World Cup threat. Goldberg made it to Sochi with the Olympic team at 22, finished sixth in a giant slalom run and 10th in a slalom there and had earned a spot on the B squad of the U.S. team, but hadn’t yet finished his 2016 Cup season when he went for the ill-fated free ski at Snowbird in Utah — his home course.

“I hit the top of (the stump) and it just stopped my foot,” he said. “It happened so quick, my upper body — I’m heavy, I’m about 200 pounds — just went forward. It kind of took the air out of my lungs a little bit.”

He doesn’t recall feeling pain, and he skied down the rest of the run. But he knew something was wrong.

“My boot had no flex to it anymore,” he said. “I had nothing holding my leg back.”

The MRI confirmed what he feared, and surgery the next day ended his season. Soon after the procedure, however, he began to focus on getting back.

“I just immediately was on the comeback road,” he said. “I was bummed out for about a day.”

He had reason to be optimistic. The ski team’s headquarters are in Park City, Utah, just over a half an hour from Holladay, and he knew where to go to get access to top-tier doctors and physical therapists.

“There was no doubt I would (return),” Goldberg said. “I know plenty of other athletes who have come back from that and (become) top five in the world.”

He used the limitations of his recovery to his advantage. Achilles tears require six weeks with no weight on the foot, so Goldberg used the time as a chance to let his mind and body heal and rest. Skiing is still off limits after those six weeks, so Goldberg used a simulator at the team’s headquarters to practice his form without risking the ankle. By August, he was back on snow, and training in New Zealand.

“He’s done a pretty good job of just being diligent and getting up to speed,” teammate Ryan Cochran-Siegle said. “He seems to be doing really well right now. … He works hard. We have a lot of motivation and I think he did a great job this year, especially coming back from injury.”

He made his racing return on Dec. 2 in a World Cup giant slalom competition in Val d`Isere, France, but it took longer than that for Goldberg to feel he was back, and that his form was still sharp. And, most importantly, that the Achilles would hold.

“It definitely took a while, especially in downhill, where you’re going 90 (mph) in the dark,” Goldberg said, referencing the shadows from surrounding trees that drape over the course. “It also takes a little bit of time to get used to going that fast again, when you can’t see the ground and it’s that dark and you’re going that fast. … After I ran a couple of downhills, that’s when I really started to feel like ‘OK, if I could do that, I’m almost back.’ ”

It soon started to show. He was 11th in a World Cup downhill at Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Jan. 27, and 14th in another downhill at Norway’s Kvitfjell Feb. 24.

“He came back pretty quick,” Cochran-Siegle said. “I think him being healthy and seeing him ski fast, he’s able to push the whole team.”

Each race is a step closer to where he was in 2014, when he started turning heads internationally. He expects to be at PyeongChang, South Korea for the next Winter Games, and to keep climbing the World Cup charts.

“I’m getting to a point where I’m becoming sort of a veteran, where I’ve been everywhere about three or four times,” he said. “I know the courses now, and now I’m starting to feel totally comfortable with the level I’m at, and now I know that I’m in a place where I can start making steps soon.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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