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SKIING’s interview with Doug Coombs, one of North America’s top 25 skiers.
Name: Doug Coombs
Age when you started skiing: Three
Hometown/where you learned to ski: Nashoba Valley, MA
Other ski history: I grew up skiing in the East, at places like Cannon, Stowe, and Smugglers’ Notch. I attended Montana State in Bozeman, raced on the ski team, and graduated after 6 years or so with a degree in geology.
Current ski mountains: In a general sense, I’d go with Valdez (Alaska) and the French Alps.
Claim to fame/results: I’ve logged over 130 first descents, but I also won the World Extreme Skiing Championships in 1990 and ’92. I did the 24 Hours of Aspen, and finished second and third in that. I’ve also won the national powder 8’s three times and finished second twice and third once in the world powder 8’s. And I started the first heli operation in Valdez back in ’94 and have pioneered about 140 descents of 3,000 vert or more. I also started the first ever steeps camp in Jackson Hole and I now run steeps camps in La Grave, France, and Verbier, Switzerland.
Signature trick or event: Skiing steeps and versatility, I guess. My idea of good skiing is always going to new places and new runs. I want to go everywhere — like Kyrgyzstan and the Antarctic Peninsula.
Have any pets? The world-traveler, Kitty Coombs. She’s a gray tabby, a two-time helirider who’s made four trips to Europe.
What’s your favorite food: Pasta
What’s your beverage of choice: Red wine
What’s your favorite band: The Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones
Are you religious? The mountains are my religion.
What kind of car do you drive? My Volkswagen van — I can sleep in it, and go anywhere.
Last book you read: The Perfect Storm
Do you have any ski heroes? Who? Why? Patrick Vallencant, for his great style. He really finessed the steeps and showed that you could do more than choppy hop-turns. The Mahres, also — I used to follow them like glue. And Pierre Tardivel, because he’s quiet, very subtle on his skis, and is still alive.
Movies you’ve been in: Aspen Extreme— Scot Schmidt and I were the main stuntmen. I did the kill scene with Scot and the winning pow 8 scene with Wiegele guide Bob Rankin. And I also did The World on Skis,a European film that never made it to the U.S. I skied all over Japan in neon clothes. I’ve also made it into several TGR and Warren Miller films.
Pastimes off the hill: Rock climbing, mountain biking, windsurfing, and chess.
Plans for the future: I want to become a fully certified mountain guide — certified in rock climbing, Alpine mountaineering, and ski mountaineering — through the international guides association, the UIAGM.
What are your thoughts on the state of the ski industry? The new technology in gear makes everything more accessible and fun. There’s so much more available than ever before, especially with areas opening up more out-of-bounds terrain. All of that puts more excitement into the sport. I just wish that ski racing would come back, too — everyone’s worried about it. I just hope that the industry can keep prices down in the U.S. Especially at the areas. It’s a family sport, and I don’t want to see skiing become too expensive for families. And I don’t want to see the small ski areas go away.
How do you feel about the FIS/IFSA?They both have their roles, and they should stop battling.
Any words of wisdom for our readers? Learn how to pole plant.