Fresh Start, Fresh Powder for Ski and Snowboard Teams

By Beacon Staff

“It’s nice to be home,” says Roy Loman.

After 35 years on the East Coast, Loman has returned to the slopes where he raced in high school. “It wasn’t a difficult choice,” the new Whitefish Mountain Race Team head coach says, “but trying to pick up my life in a few weeks wasn’t the easiest thing.”

This fall, Whitefish Mountain Resort found itself bereft of all three competitive head coaches. The largest program – the race team – maintained continuity with a strong assistant coach contingent; the smaller freestyle and snowboard teams merged.

When Jeff Pickering – the race coach for the past six years – moved this summer back to the U.S. Ski Team, Loman returned to his home turf. Despite his daughter giving birth to his first grandchild back east and the late season leap west, the Flathead Valley Ski Education Foundation assisted Loman getting to the Flathead this month.

As a Ronan teen, Loman raced on Big Mountain’s team when skiers boot-packed courses. “I never figured out turning, but I had a great tuck,” says Loman, who competed in the Doug Smith Downhill. He also worked on Big Mountain’s patrol, rooming with Steve Spencer, Blacktail’s mountain manager. After a Navy tour, he landed east, where he had coached skiers since 1978, most recently with Vermont’s Team Killington.

Loman inherits 32 skiers, ages 8 to 18, along with a new team name: Whitefish Mountain Race Team. “It’s a young program. The task is to grow the base and bring more kids to the older ages,” he says. Pickering developed four kids to ski in international NORAMs (North American Cups). “That’s a strong representation for such a small team,” adds Loman.
Older kids on the race team train four days per week. Younger kids opt for one-, two-, or three-day training programs.

Loman’s assistant coaches came with familiarity. “I remember the Collins name from my racing,” he says. Both Pete and Dick Collins, who grew up on Big Mountain Race Team, now coach along with Tom Pacheco. Zak Anderson, a former local racer, also joined the staff this year. “They’re a really good, very enthusiastic group,” says Loman.

The Whitefish program is smaller than Killington’s, but comes with endless hours driving a van to races. Loman traded driving to seven race sites within 40 minutes of his house to Northern Division and Western Region race locales sprawled across Montana, California, Utah, and Canada. “What strikes me is the difficulty for athletes missing so much school,” he says. “Kids must be so disciplined to finish school work.”

While Loman hits the road with the race team, the freestyle and snowboard teams merged under the returning leadership of Steve Knox, who retired from freestyle coaching in 2001 after hosting the Junior National Championships here. “It’s a new era for the two merged teams,” he says. “Both freestylers and snowboarders are doing the same thing.”

With freestyle, moguls are passé. “Kids don’t know Jonny Moseley anymore,” laughs Knox, referring to the 1998 mogul Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion. Instead, park and pipe jumps are in. Both teams dropped the expensive USSA competitive affiliation and travel, but train on Saturdays and compete in 12 local park and pipe events.

Numbers are still climbing, but Knox expects to field 15 skiers and 12 snowboarders. Andrew Johnson, who trained under Knox, stepped up to assist him with skiers while long-time instructor Jay Dobbins coaches snowboarders.

While Knox’s teams can avoid notorious Big Mountain fog by training at lower elevations, Killington didn’t have thick fog. Loman says, “I grew up skiing in the fog here. It’s a very good teacher of stance, balance, confidence … and good sense, too.”

Kids and teens can still join the programs. Call 862-2909 for further information.