Every weekend you can see the caravan of ski-racked SUV’s making the trek up Hwy 12 to White Pass Ski Area. These vehicles are crammed with long underwear sporting kids and adults alike, stuffed to the roof with all the gear that goes along with the adventures that await them. In that line of vehicles you will find the Peternell Family, parents Mark and Jessica, along with their two kids, Troy and Anna. Any parent that has ever taken younger kids skiing knows that it is a mega commitment on multiple levels. Gear commitment (lots and lots of gear, none of it cheap). Time commitment, two plus hour drive on both ends. Financial commitment – gear, tickets, gas, lessons, and lots of hot cocoa. Can’t forget the physical commitment. Most parents are sweaty, exhausted messes by the time they’ve dropped their kids off at lessons. And then, when you’re ready to enjoy the day it’s time to throw some elbows and find a spot in the lodge to eat lunch. Exhausted yet? Why do it? Because it is SO worth it. There are memories made on the mountains that can’t be replicated anywhere else. Try, just try, to beat a sunny day with friends and family on the slopes. Impossible. It’s those memories from childhood ski adventures that drives parents to share those experiences with their kids. Which is exactly what the Peternell’s are doing. “There are so few sports that the entire family can do together. When my kids and I ski together, we spend the whole day engaged in the same activity”. I tracked down Mark, Troy and Anna to get their stories of skiing at White Pass this Winter. Jessica is typically busy protecting the lunch table (an unglamorous, but essential task)!
Mark started skiing when he was 4 or 5. Growing up his whole family skied and his mom was a ski instructor at Ski Acres so she would take the kids up with her every weekend during the winter. “I remember the last day of ski lesson season there would be a ski race. I always looked forward to that weekend and loved skiing down the race course.”At age thirteen Mark and his brother became interested in ski racing and their parents decided to enroll them in the racing program at Crystal Mountain. They had been taking regular lessons for years, but after watching their cousin race at Bear Valley in California, the brothers decided they wanted to race too. “For me ski racing helped create a lifetime passion that has provided me with an enormous amount of satisfaction and sense of well being throughout my life. If am ever feeling down, I know that happiness is just one run away. I want my kids to have access to healthy outdoor habits like ski racing that last a lifetime. Plus, Peternell’s love to ski that’s just how it is.”
Mark is now passing that passion onto Troy and Anna. In the past, the kids had taken lessons at Crystal Mountain, but this year the Peternell’s moved them to White Pass after Mark learned that his old ski coach Rick Reid was the director of the race program there. “I have nothing but fond memories about Rick’s program, so when Troy became interested in ski racing, we decided to go with White Pass. Rick had always emphasized ski racing as a means of creating a lifetime passion that would provide a healthy habit and create enjoyment for years to come.”
Ski racing doesn’t come without dangers. Kids are flying down the mountain at insane speeds, and there is a real risk there. But with the risk comes the responsibility.”I think that kids who ski race learn to control their skis and handle adverse conditions in a way that will keep them safe on skis for years to come. ”
Last year White Pass opened Paradise Basin. Planned decades ago Paradise Basin increases White Pass’s vertical drop to 2,000-feet and doubled its size to 1,500 acres, making it the 4th largest ski area in Washington. Costing $9 million to complete, the expansion included 13 new runs, 2 new quad chairlifts and a new lodge perched at 6,000-feet. When Mark was skiing White Pass there were no high speed quad chairs and the new Paradise Basin area was just in the planning stages. “Other than that, the place does not feel that different. I think that is one of the things that I like about White Pass.”
Are all of those positive memories rubbing off on Troy and Anna? Well yes, they’re loving it! This year they’ve discovered skiing in the trees and finding deep powder (which is easy to find when you are 9 and 5 years old) and they are at the point where everyone can ski almost the entire mountain together. Both Troy and Anna love going off jumps and skiing with their Dad when they are not in lessons. This year Troy is in the “Intro to Ski Racing” program and it’s “great because we get to ski Black Diamond runs and try gates sometimes.” Anna is in ski lessons and she likes them because she “has a nice instructor”! Next year she’ll start “Intro to Ski Racing” but she’s skied a couple of gates when she’s with her Dad. Troy will have his first timed race in March and he’s looking forward to it. Like father like son. Although he did tell me he likes “normal skiing better!” Shhhh. But I’m guessing that’s ok. “At this point, I just love to see how much joy skiing brings to their lives. They truly love it. I hope that when I am old and feeble they will remember fondly the days we spent together in the mountains and that it will bring a smile to their face.”
So bundle up the family, pack up the gear, and hit the mountains. There is nothing but fond memories ready to be made.