Rebecca Wolf likes life on the downhill slide. She’s good at it.
The West Valley senior is an accomplished skier, growing up skiing with her family every weekend at Schweitzer Mountain.
“My parents taught me to ski when I was 3 years old,” she explained. “My mom was part of the ski racing team. In fact, she got my dad into skiing. She grew up skiing and taught him how to ski.”
Wolf inherited her mother’s need for speed, becoming an accomplished ski racer at an early age – she’s been clocked in the downhill at a personal best of 68 mph.
By the time she was in the seventh grade, her coaches encouraged her to double her training regimen.
“I used to only train on Saturdays,” she said. “Then they told me to train Saturday and Sunday. There were six girls and we’d always been together skiing. We got pretty competitive with each other. We had the opportunity to go with it in our area.”
Wolf competed in the Junior Olympics three consecutive years, beginning in the eighth grade. As a high school sophomore she qualified for the national Junior Olympics.
Competing at such a high level, racing in competition all over the Northwest, became a challenge. It meant spending significant amounts of time out of school.
She was training four and five days per week, and the shortest ski race lasts four days. Most are longer, with at least a travel day there and back.
When the family approached officials in the Central Valley School District, they were told the district allowed a limited number of absences per semester. Miss nine days and you’d fail.
“We went to West Valley and they said they’d work with me,” she said. “Skiing was what I base my life around. Last year, for example, I took eight classes at the community college in the fall and spring so that I could take the winter quarter off and concentrate on skiing.
“It’s taught me a lot about keeping up with my school work. That’s been very important to me.”
She spent last summer skiing the Andes mountains in Santiago, Chile.
“It’s winter down there when it’s summer here,” she explained. “But skiing there is different. First of all, it’s 13,000 feet, much higher than it is here. You have to train hard before you ever get there. You had to be in so much better shape than just ‘good shape.’ ”
She has skied some of the storied areas in the West, including the slopes at Whistler before the Winter Olympic Games came to British Columbia, and the same slopes used during the Salt Lake City games.
“It’s not like you’re skiing the exact same course they did in the Olympics,” she said. “That’s one thing people don’t really understand. Courses are different, even from run to run. Conditions change, temperatures change, the snow changes.
“I got the chance to go watch some of the skiing during the Vancouver (Winter Olympic) Games. I watched Lindsey Vonn and the rest of them ski.” Wolf said she wanted to cut back somewhat in her senior year at West Valley. While she still skied and trained, she also wanted to be part of the school’s ups and downs.
“I didn’t get the chance to go see the state championship football game because I had the chance to attend a training camp in Canada and ski on a World Cup course at Lake Louise,” she said. “I hated missing that game, but you don’t get an opportunity to do that all that often. I’ve tried to go to basketball games during the week and be part of the school. It’s been a great year.”
There have been chances to continue her career – even scholarship offers. But Wolf decided to concentrate on school rather than skiing.
Not that she’s giving up the slopes entirely.
“I’m going to Montana State,” she said. “I’m still going to ski on one of their club teams, but I’m going to concentrate on school. I didn’t make their Division I varsity ski team. They like to import a lot of skiers from Norway.
“I haven’t decided what I want to study yet. Probably something in the human sciences. I want to get my degrees and make sure that I have a life after ski racing.”