Mahre brothers teach skiing their way

Mahre brothers teach skiing their way

(Sherri Harkin/Deer Valley Resorts)

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DEER VALLEY RESORTS — For the past three decades, the Mahre brothers, two of the most successful skiers in the United States, have been holding camps intended to help skiers improve. For the past 12 years, those camps have been held at Deer Valley Resorts.

Balance is a skier's best friend. Being out of balance is a skier's demon. The question many skiers face is when are they in and when are they out of balance? The Mahre brothers — Phil and Steve — have the answer.

"When I look on the slopes today, I see so many people out of balance," said Phil Mahre, an Olympic medalist and World Cup champion who is recognized as one of the best technical skiers in the world. "Good balance is the very foundation of skiing and to work on improving, a skier needs a solid foundation.''

As he said, many skiers don't fully understand balance, not only fore and aft, but also vertical and lateral.

"The analogy I use is if you can't taste the difference between apples and oranges, it doesn't matter which one you eat. In skiing, if you can't tell the difference between leaning too far forward or backward, you can't help yourself,'' Phil Mahre said. "There's a huge difference not only physically, but how the skis perform when in balance.''

Phil Mahre and his twin brother, Steve, have been working to get skiers in balance for three decades. Steve Mahre said it is their way of contributing to skiing.

Mahre Training Camps
  • Five-day sessions: Monday-Friday, Jan. 11-15
  • Three-day sessions: Friday-Sunday, Jan. 8-10, Friday-Sunday, Feb. 26-28
  • Cost:5-day training session: $1,440 with lift ticket; $1,210 without lift ticket
  • 3-day training session: $935 with lift ticket; $797 without lift ticket
  • Three-day sessions are concentrated versions of five-day sessions held Friday through Sunday. Accommodations are not included, but may be obtained through Deer Valley Resort.
  • Register by phone for the 2016 ski camps by calling 1-888-754-8477.

Since 1985, the twins have been holding Mahre Training Center camps at various resorts around the country: First at Keystone Resort in Colorado, then Stowe Resort in Vermont, Heavenly Valley in California, and for the past 12 years, at Deer Valley Resorts.

Their method of training has been spawned from their experience as recreational skiers, Olympians and World Cup competitors. Phil, the younger of the two by 4 minutes, has been the most successful in the competitive racing world. He has two Olympic medals — a gold and silver—, 27 World Cup victors and won the overall World Cup title for three consecutive years (1981-83.)

Steve has one Olympic medal, a silver, and nine World Cup victories.

They stepped out of competitive ski racing in 1985 and split their interest in two very different directions.

First, they wanted to stay in skiing and saw a way to help their sport and skiers by directing their experience into the field of teaching. They developed their teaching strategy with the help of Harold Schoenhaar, a U.S. Ski Team coach.

Second, they enrolled in a driving school and found they had a knack for auto racing: First in endurance events, including the 24-hour Daytona, and more recently in the Grand-Am Challenge Series.

Their driving careers ended in the early 1990s. Family responsibilities and funding both played a role in their decision to hang up the keys, even though they discovered they had driving skills. In the five years they raced, they won the West Coast driver's title and the National Championships in GT-1 class.

They returned to racing in 2007 and bought a Ford Mustang GT and competed in the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series. Again, family and finances played a role in their decision to stick with skiing. The Grand-Am series brought them to the Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele in 2007.

Familiar with Deer Valley and Utah skiing, they contacted Bob Wheaton, president/CEO, and started negotiation to bring their learning center to Utah. Each winter they hold five camps — two five-day and three three-day. They bring on around two dozen Deer Valley instructors and train them in "their way'' of teaching.

During their competitive years, the twins were well know for doing things "their way.'' They would talk with coaches and trainers, but when it came time to train, they were pretty much on their own.

"Yes, we did things our way," Phil Mahre said. "We'd ask coaches certain things, things we needed to work on. But it wasn't what the coaches wanted us to do that mattered, but what we wanted to do, things we knew we needed to do to improve."

Their instruction follows the same pattern. That is, they've developed a program to help skiers improve by giving them the tools through specific drills and exercises and then allowing them to improve "their way.''

"Students are able to take away an understanding of what it feels like to be in balance," Steve Mahre said. "They can then become their own coach, their own best critic. When skiing they will know when they are in balance or out of balance. They'll know when it's right and when it's not."

"There are so many things that are counterintuitive in skiing, such as leaning downhill and allowing gravity to help in the turn," Phil Mahre added. "The initial reaction is to lean uphill, which makes turning awkward and difficult. In skiing you find if you fix one thing, you actually fix two and often that means fixing bad habits. People struggle with old habits. Old habits, good or bad, are comfortable and to make a bad habit better, it often doesn't feel better in the beginning. It can feel awkward and strange. It's hard to change old habits.''

In comparing the racing and skiing, the brothers said the big difference is ski racing required complete concentration for about one minute, where auto racing required hours of compete concentration on not only what is ahead, but what is coming up from behind.

The two brothers were also involved in dirt bike racing while they were on the World Cup circuit, much to the chagrin of their coaches, and continue to ride.

As for the ski camps, the objective is to give students the tools they need to improve.

"It seldom happens on a single run or a day or even a week," Phil Mahre said. "It may take years. It takes hard work and concentration . . . but at least they will have the tools they need."


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