- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"The day that I don't enjoy skiing is the day I'm going to quit," says Phil. "Either it's fun, or I just don't want to be in it." Steve also speaks matter-of-factly about the joys of competition. "Things have been going good lately. If they hadn't, I guess I might have dropped out."
One reason for the relatively cool view of their lives as racers is that the Mahres are hard-core homebodies who don't much like Europe. "Traveling is a hassle," says Steve. "I never look forward to it, although I've sort of gotten accustomed to it so that it doesn't bother me as much as it did." Phil says, "The best place in the world is home. We know that this is only going to be for a couple more years, not for a lifetime."
Home for the Mahre twins now is the quiet little community of Yakima in the apple orchards of Washington's Yakima Valley. Both got married last summer; commendably they avoided a double wedding. However, both wedding parties exited from the church through honor guards of skiers holding ski poles aloft. Each Mahre married his high school sweetheart: Phil, 20-year-old Paula Davis; Steve, 21-year-old Debbie Dunn.
Paula, a small blonde former high school sprinter who blushes a lot, didn't ski until a year ago, and she says, "When I met Phil I didn't even know he skied. I guess Phil liked that because all the other girls he went out with knew he was the famous Phil Mahre. He acted so much older than the guys I had been going out with. He would open the door for me and everything."
Debbie, a former high school cheerleader with sparkling eyes and smile, has been skiing for years but is still an intermediate. "I knew all through high school that the Mahre twins skied, but I thought they were in just little races." she says. "Steve was better known for being a quarterback. But he was really shy in high school. We started going out at the end of our senior year. Steve says he always liked me. But once when I broke up with a boyfriend, he was so slow that before he had a chance to ask me out, I already had a new one."
The high school where the romances blossomed is located in tiny (pop. 710) Naches, which is 11 miles from Yakima. The graduating class had 90 students; Phil was the salutatorian, Steve fifth in the class. A great percentage of the students arrived via school bus. The Mahres had a 90-minute ride each way from White Pass, some 40 miles above Naches. And it was here, at little more than a wide spot in the road, at the foot of a ski area in the Cascades, that the two most promising American racers learned their craft.
Dave Mahre had been mountain manager for the White Pass ski area since the twins were four years old, and the family moved into a house that was roughly 20 yards from the foot of the main chair lift when they were nine. The twins' mother, Mary, is an energetic and infinitely patient woman who has seven children (now six to 28) besides the twins. "Well. I'd never have twins again, I tell you," she says. "Their sister was 17 months when they were born, and my whole life was nothing but babies, morning to night. Everyone says that I have more patience than most parents. Well, maybe. I don't think I bark at my children, and I don't think I ever belittle them. I try to treat my children as people who are equal to me, and I try not to order them around.
"We've been blessed with good minds and healthy bodies, but Dave and I haven't tried to push the children. All our children have won many trophies. With the twins, Dave says they pushed each other and that's why they were so good. It probably started when they were crawling; they went right on into skiing. They were invariably one-two in races. I think maybe Phil likes to win a little more than Steven does. But that may be changing now."
As small boys, the twins skied constantly on the White Pass trails, and when they were eight years old they entered their first race. Phil won, Steve was second. "Before they were 12, people would say, 'They'll ski in the Olympics someday,' " Mary Mahre says. "Somehow it was in the air, I guess. Myself. I couldn't see it because I'm not a skier, really—I could just barely get down the hill. And Dave didn't ski with them a lot. But somehow it seems as if they had the God-given gift, and I guess they're putting it to use."
There is reason to believe that it will be put to better use this year than ever before. Hank Tauber, the Alpine team director, says, "I think both Phil and Steve are really happy, personally happy, for the first time. Their marriages have been good-for them and have served to settle them down so that they can give full attention to developing those fantastic skills they have. Steve is happy as a racer now, too, since he got that win at Stratton. That gave him confidence he never had before, and now he is capable of putting together slaloms every bit as good as Stenmark's or Phil's. They've never had a better attitude."