Go, ski racer, go
February 16, 2009
By Christopher Huber
Sammamish’s Brooke Wales makes waves on the ski circuit
As she sat in the Reno-Tahoe International Airport Feb. 11, Sammamish resident Brooke Wales recalled the somewhat uneventful past few days of what was supposed to be a six-race Nor-Am Cup event in Mammoth, Calif. Fresh powder and visibility issues cancelled all but one of the scheduled ski races.
She’d been on the road and away from school — she is a senior at Eastside Catholic — for nearly two weeks, and she was ready to head home for a few days. She’d been competing with the top skiers from around the U.S. and Canada.
“This week was tough because we battled bad weather all week,” Wales said.However, sitting around, waiting for snow to compact and fog to clear is certainly not typical of Wales’ experience as a ski racer.
At 18, Wales is one of the leading members of the Mission Ridge Ski Team, and has spent the better part of her adolescence hurling herself at 60-75 miles per hour down the slopes of some of the most prestigious ski racing events in the world.
“The exhilaration I get is indescribable. It’s just you and the course,” she said. “I tell people, ‘if you don’t get a little scared of it,’ you’re pretty crazy.”
She trains at Mission Ridge four days a week and often spends a week or two at a time on the road, traveling to national and international championship races.
Last August, Wales competed in the South America Cup in La Parva, Chile and finished ninth in the downhill.
Wales somehow manages to maintain a 4.0 grade-point average at Eastside Catholic, too.
“She’s very self-motivated,” said Marcy McCorriston, Wales’ anatomy teacher. “She basically missed seven weeks of school and she got an A on the final.”
McCorriston has taught Wales for three years and said she is diligent, detail-oriented and has a good depth of understanding, despite attending class only three days a week.
“I’m amazed because she is able to come back and get an A on her final,” McCorriston said. “She basically taught herself all this stuff.”
Being away doesn’t mean she skips class, though. Wales said she stays in contact with all her teachers and makes time to do homework during her down time at events.
“It’s really difficult, but it’s definitely worth it,” Wales said.
Wales started skiing when she was little, but began devoting serious time and effort to it when she was 13. Her love of skiing came from her family’s winter visits to their cabin near Stevens Pass.
“When I was little, it was kind of just for more social time,” she said.
Skiing became a passion for Wales when she was 14 because, “the feeling I get when I go down a ski course, it’s amazing.”
Wales’ coach, Ryan Shorter, of the Mission Ridge Ski Team, hopes she will perform well enough on this year’s circuit to eventually make it onto the U.S. National team.
“She’s always been really good. She just keeps getting better this season,” Shorter said. “Our hope is that she makes the C team or the D team.”
Earlier this month, she competed in the Nor-Am circuit races in Nakiska, Alberta and posted one of the fastest times of the second day in the giant slalom. The only person to beat her on the second run was Canadian World Cup skier Marie-Michelle Gagnon, who recently finished ninth in the Cortina d’Ampezzo World Cup. Due to a huge mistake in her first run of the event, she ultimately finished 17th.
“I ran sixth on the second run and was able to put one together and finally ski like I do in training,” Wales said. “I actually got second on the run. That was definitely a highlight and super exciting.”
Currently Wales is ranked 32nd overall among Nor-Am skiers in the International Ski Federation (FIS). She sits at the 14th spot in the super G category.
She is open to the possibilities of someday competing in the Olympics, but said she plans to just work hard and go with the flow. That seems to be her mentality, too, when standing at the gate before a race.
“I try not to think about it too much,” Wales said. “When I just go, I tend to do my best.”
Reporter Christopher Huber can be reached at 392-6434, ext. 242, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. To comment on this story, visit www.sammamishreview.com.