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Alta states

Willy Raine: A pure passion for the mountains

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He says one of the biggest motivators for him is seeing the blaze of passion in a young athlete’s eyes. “There is something very special about working with young people who have a passion for their chosen activity,” he explains. “And that’s because that passion can be adapted to other pursuits. Ultimately, it makes for a more positive outlook on life.”

But it also takes a strong and confident coach to nurture that outlook. “At the races, you want so much for every kid to succeed. But you have to learn how to stand back and let them fly on their own…” Another pause. Another glance to see if I’m following him. “Win or lose — you’re grounding them either way,” he continues. “It’s a unique relationship — and a very powerful one…”

Adds Raine: “I love it when I run into kids — well, they’re not kids anymore, they’re in their 20s — and all they want to talk about is their time at the club and how much it enriched their lives. That’s when you know that you haven’t been wasting your time.”

Raine believes that the first step in this process is instilling a deep and abiding love for skiing in general. “For me, the free skiing flame burns stronger and stronger,” he says. And then he laughs. “Honestly, I’m more passionate about skiing today than I’ve ever been! It doesn’t matter whether I’ve worked 14 days straight or just come back from a long road trip. On a powder day, I’m first in line at the lifts.”

Forget Technical Director. Sounds to me like his new title should be Director of Soul. He laughs when I mention it. “But you have a point,” he says. “I really want to teach our kids to love the mountains. To love skiing in all its different dimensions.”

Why? Because, he says, it’s something that stays with you for the rest of your life. “I remember my first year as a coach at Blackcomb,” he explains. “They had the 15cm rule. If it snowed more than 15cm training was cancelled. But instead of free skiing, most of the kids would go home. I was shocked!” Another burst of laughter. “You see, my fondest memories of my years on the circuit aren’t of being on a race course somewhere. They’re of the days when the race was cancelled and we went free skiing…”