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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Dave Dubuque: For ski race coach Eddy Edwards, racing is about more than just being fast

Mt. Spokane Ski Race Team member Tyee McLaughlin speeds through a practice course.  (Dave Dubuque/courtesy)
Mt. Spokane Ski Race Team member Tyee McLaughlin speeds through a practice course. (Dave Dubuque/courtesy)
By Dave Dubuque For The Spokesman-Review

For Mt. Spokane Ski Race Team coach Eddy Edwards, it’s hard to name just one reason why he loves what he does. But it’s easy to see that his passion for skiing is near the top of the list.

“What else would you be doing, given the chance?” he asked.

This, of course, is not an uncommon sentiment among the sport’s devotees.

Passing on his love of the sport is as important to Edwards as teaching how to win races.

“A lot of parents tell me, ‘I want my kid to be an all-around good skier with a lifelong love of the sport,’ and that’s a big part of what we’re trying to promote,” he said. “I used to play football, but like most people, I played through high school and I was done. Nobody’s going to be out stiff-arming and tackling people on the weekends until they’re 82, but you’ll see plenty of skiers that age on the hill.”

As racers continue with the program through high school and focus increasingly on the competitive aspect of the sport – an endeavor that requires long hours spent practicing and traveling for races – the installment of skills that will serve kids throughout their lives continues.

“We have racers who want to make it to the World Cup. It’s a large commitment of time and energy, but we help the kids develop self-discipline and time-management habits that enable them to balance school and racing,” Edwards said. “We want them to be well-rounded people.”

Edwards also values the sense of community that comes with being a part of the race program.

“That’s what’s so neat about the team. Coaches on the team grew up racing together,” he said. “Parents, too. And their kids are in it together. We’re not a huge program, so we need help with things like hosting races. All of the parents volunteer. They’re the most amazing parents in the world. They’ll be sitting on a bucket watching gates for six hours when it’s 10 degrees and blowing sideways. They make lunches for the coaches and course crew and run around with coffee and cocoa carafes. It feels like one big family.

“I can ski up in the lift line, and 95% of the time ride up with someone I know.”

Edwards said the team’s home ski area is a big part of the program’s success.

“The race program is separate from the mountain, but Mt. Spokane is one of our biggest sponsors,” he said. “It’s more supportive of the ski team than any mountain I’ve been to.”

The love of the mountain shows. The race program was formerly known as Spokane Ski Race Association, or SSRA, but the club’s board of directors didn’t like that the name didn’t reference their home mountain.

The team, now known as Mt. Spokane Ski Race Team, competes against other local mountains up through the U-12 (under 12 years of age) level: 49 Degrees North, Schweitzer, Silver, Lookout and Bluewood.

At the U-14 level, racers begin competing against ski areas from around the Pacific Northwest. As racers continue to advance in age and skill, they compete against teams from the western United States, Alaska and Canada, vying for national ranking.

“Making the World Cup ski team is a 1 in 10,000 chance, but we have a couple of kids who have a shot,” Edwards said.

Whether or not a ski racer has what it takes to make it to that level of competition, there’s something about the sport that encourages continual development.

“You’re always learning and getting better,” Edwards said. “I’ve never met a skier who’s done learning.”

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