The Final Race – An interview with Peter McMahon

  • February 14, 2016

Current Development Team member Cedar Mattole interviewed former World Cup Team member and mentor Peter McMahon about his racing career.  In this sport, the number of racers and former racers who have mentored younger racers is one of the things that makes Telemark racing special.  This season, Charlie Dresen is coaching the Steamboat Springs Telemark Development Team, which includes his son Finn.  These former team members are passing the torch to the next generation!  Following is what Cedar wrote:

by Cedar Mattole

Peter McMahon in Steamboat Springs

“My childhood dream was to become an Olympic ski racer,” he said. Peter McMahon may have not quite fulfilled that dream, but he still raced for the U.S Telemark Ski Team and the U.S World Cup Team. He started skiing when he was about three years old. When he was in fifth or sixth grade he raced for the first time and then he was immediately hooked. Then, when he was in seventh grade he joined the USSA program. Pete raced for USSA until he graduated from high school. “Ski racing was always a part of my life, since the first time I saw it,” he said.

Pete grew up in Clemeth, Minnesota, which wasn’t very close to a ski area. To be able to still follow his dreams, Pete joined a ski school that would go to a different ski area every six or seven weeks. He mainly skied at a resort named Highland Hills when he was racing.

Then he decided to go pro. He started racing at US Telemark Ski Team qualifier races. He managed to place high enough to join the team. After racing for the team for a couple years at the US nationals, he was asked to join the US World Cup Telemark Team. This was a huge deal for Pete. His first official world cup race was in 1996 at Squaw Valley Resort. He was about 26 years old at the time. He went on to race at fifty to sixty world cup races all over the world.

“The pressure was hard to handle at times, but it was always good fun and good camaraderie. I think that the best part was being part of the team,” he said. He said that most of the pressure was pressure that he put on himself. He said,“ When you want to do well, but you don’t do as well as you think that you would do, you put pressure on yourself and it becomes frustrating.”

Pete had taken a few years off from racing. Then, in 2009 he decided to take one last year of racing. They were in Boeheim, Slovenia at the time. It was a cold and windy day, but the racers decided to tough through it and race. Pete ended up having a great race. He finished eleventh, which was his best finish that he had ever had. “It was a strong finish for me after not really competing for three or four years, and being 39 years old.” Then Eirik Rykhus, who had been the reigning world cup champion for three or four years shook his hand after the race was over. “This was because that day I had been the only racer, man or woman, to ski the race clean, with no penalties,” he said. “That day I just let it all hang out.”

Pete entered my life at a young age. He was one of my family’s good friends. When I decided to start telemark ski racing for the first time at the young age of nine, Pete offered to train me. First, it was maybe once a week at the most, but then after a couple of years, we were training twice a week at the least. He traveled with me to the races that he could find time to go to. Pete has been a huge influence in my life. I have always looked up to him and have always wanted to be like him. Pete has been my inspiration to keep trying and never give up. His positive attitude and natural humor have always amazed me. I have always wanted to be able to just relax and realize that whatever happens happens, and that we really can’t have everything that we want. Pete has always known this and tried to teach me that if I end up doing poorly in a race, not to beat myself up. Many times people have complemented my being calm at races, even when they are extremely stressful. My response to this is that I learned it from Pete. In my opinion he has taught me my most important lessons in life. I hope that Pete will continue to train with me, because without him, I wouldn’t even know how to ski around the gates.