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There’s a Legends ski race held annually in Vail, Colo., that is attended by the finest ski champions from the past 50 years. These famous racers, from Anderl Molterer to Franz Klammer and from Andrea Mead Lawrence to Tamara McKinney, compete in their own events and also captain a team of a half-dozen recreational racers in a short, dual GS format. Besides enjoying a week’s worth of competition, high-end parties and the chance to reminisce about the golden days, the ex-champions raise a good chunk of money for charity. The captains are also expected to provide some coaching for their teammates, who put down a lot of dough for the privilege to ski with the greats.
And who are the most sought-after Legends? Year after year, Phil and Steve Mahre end up with a growing posse of students as they roam the mountain, dispensing their down-to-earth instruction and sage advice. You can see their group’s confidence grow as the Mahres take the mysteries out of fast skiing and simplify the sport. Once the racing begins, Phil and Steve are in the starting gate with their teammates, cleaning snow off their skis, wiping down goggles, giving leg rubs and shouting genuine words of encouragement. If you didn’t know better, you’d think this was the Olympics. And in the case of the Mahres, they seem to treat everything as if it’s the Olympics.
Phil and Steve are national treasures, and it’s still difficult to fully appreciate what they accomplished some two decades ago. Competing in a Euro-dominated sport, Steve won nine World Cup events, an Olympic silver and the 1982 World Championship GS¿just a few weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery. Phil became the only U.S. male to win an overall World Cup title, then collected two more, as well as an Olympic gold and silver. And they always did it their way, wearing Levi’s to compete in their first junior nationals, setting their own training programs, racing motorcycles, refusing to enter super G because they considered it a hoax and traveling the World Cup with their families.
What worked for them back then still works today. For this issue, Phil and Steve spent a few days at Deer Valley with SKI Instruction Editor Stu Campbell. The Mahres’ methods are easily grasped, their explanations surprisingly straightforward. The fraternal twins boil it all down to balance, and they show you how to achieve it and to maintain it. But there’s another secret to their success that isn’t about technique or tactics. Turn to page 109 and check out the smiles on their faces. For the Mahres, then and now, skiing is first and foremost a sport to enjoy. And that’s a pretty good lesson for all of us.