Sport is a family affair for young slope star

Davis, by many accounts, is the only sponsored youth athlete on the island.

At just 13 years old, McMurray middle schooler Davis Rice is a sponsored athlete, competes — and wins — against older kids, has his name on a trophy that’s nearly as tall as he is and sometimes hangs out with Olympic medalists.

On the White Pass Ski and Snowboard Club and sponsored by Spider’s Ski & Sports, Davis has competed in slalom, giant slalom and super G events, and wins races, often by several seconds — which in ski racing is a significant amount of time.

To hear him tell it, it’s not really a big deal. From his dad’s perspective, it’s a natural evolution in a sport that’s been in his own blood since he was a little younger than Davis. The sport is skiing, and for the Rices, it is definitely a family affair.

Scott Rice, Davis’ father, who is familiar to some islanders as a lacrosse, soccer or baseball coach, started skiing when he was about 12 years old, or “late,” as he described it. At the time, no one else in his family skied, but he quickly became passionate about the sport even though between gear and lift tickets, it’s an expensive one.

“I didn’t have any money, so I learned on my own and was good enough by the time I was 15 to become an instructor,” he said. “I taught at Snoqualmie, which meant free passes. I actually taught for Laurie Miller’s ski school.”

Laurie Miller was the wife of the late Warren Miller, who was famous for his ski and snowboarding films. She also had a gear shop in Seattle that helped Scott Rice out in both the equipment and client departments.

“I did it all through high school and college,” he explained of teaching to feed his ski habit. “I met people from just being in the shop, and she also referred them to me. It eventually closed, but I kept my clients from there, taught private classes. I never competed, but I got to ski with some really fantastic skiers who were better than I was. That’s how I learned.”

Scott Rice loves teaching people to ski. He has taught “hundreds and hundreds” of adults, kids and family members, by his own account.

And if he felt alone at the beginning of this snow-carving love affair, he didn’t for long as his wife Tiffany is a “big skier.” Rice said they skied together growing up — and his brothers picked up the sport as well. As a family, which includes Scott and Tiffany’s high school-aged son Mason, they spend every weekend at Washington’s White Pass ski area. This is where young Davis cut his teeth on the slopes, with the likes of U.S. skiing legends and Olympic medalists Phil and Steve Mahre looking on.

“Phil Mahre lives next to my brother,” Rice said. “They’re good friends.”

Those who were old enough in the 1970s and 1980s may remember the Mahres — twin brothers and Washington natives — best known for reaching the podium together, with gold and silver medals between them in slalom, at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, the former Yugoslavia, in 1984. The brothers grew up at White Pass while their father managed the mountain, and their sister and brother-in-law manage it currently. So it is not unusual to still see them on the slopes there, now with their grandchildren.

And Davis Rice.

Scott Rice said he first put Davis on skis when he was 2 years old.

“I remember bungie cords and harnesses,” Davis said about his early days on the slopes. And he started competing at the ripe old age of 5.

“By the time they’re 5, they can ski everything I can, and they won’t listen to me anymore,” laughed Scott Rice about his young students.

Lane (“Spider”) MacLeod, co-owner of Spider’s Ski & Sports with his wife Christine, is impressed with Davis’ abilities.

“I watched him make up 4 seconds in a race to win last year, beating 14 year-olds when he was 11,” he said. “You just don’t see that very often.”

Davis, by many accounts, is the only sponsored youth athlete on the island. The ski and bike equipment retailer provides Davis’ gear at cost. The shop also plays host to Davis’ many trophies.

“Christine and I just think he’s such a special kid,” MacLeod added.

Scott Rice said that his family has also received support from ski equipment manufacturer and former Vashon business K2.

“As you can imagine, this sport takes a lot of support from many people to help make a young racer successful,” he explained. “Between Lane and Christine who keep him tuned up and race ready to the coaching staff at White Pass, the Mahres, his aunts, uncles and cousins … all have contributed in some way to his success.”

Davis Rice and Phil Mahre (Courtesy Photo)

Davis Rice and Phil Mahre (Courtesy Photo)

It takes a village.

As for Davis, he says his favorite type of ski racing is the giant slalom, but it’s an entirely different sport that holds the top spot in his heart.

“Lacrosse is my favorite,” he admitted with a side glance to his dad, who also coaches lacrosse. “I like being part of a team. In skiing you compete against your friends, so it’s fun, but not fun at the same time. I also like that you can … do more in lacrosse. In skiing you just kind of go down the course.”

Did we mention that Davis also made the state all-star team in lacrosse last year?

The busy young athlete competes in cross country and soccer as well.

Skiing will continue to keep him busy through the winters for now, and Davis has yet to decide whether he’ll continue to race once he gets to high school. But regardless of the sport he focuses on in the years ahead, his accomplishments now are reminiscent of those of the ski racing champions that he spends time with on his weekends at White Pass.

“He’s a very strong and gifted athlete,” MacLeod said. “He really does remind me of the Mahre brothers when they were juniors.”