Brothers celebrate 40th anniversary of their Olympic medals at White Pass

Mahre twins’ favorite White Pass Ski Area run renamed in their honor


With their skis waxed and ready, Steve and Phil Mahre returned to the slopes where the Olympic medalist slalom skiers first learned how to carve down their way down a mountain — the White Pass Ski Area in East Lewis County.

Originally born in Yakima in 1957 and living there again now, the Mahres grew up skiing at White Pass after their father, Phil, became the mountain manager and moved the family to a house at the base of the ski slopes.

On Saturday, Feb. 24, the fraternal twin brothers, along with hundreds of other skiers, spent a couple of hours racing down a celebratory slalom course at the bottom of the run they grew up on.

Races were held between the brothers and they also took on any challenger looking to test their skills against the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympic slalom medalists.

Needless to say, both Phil and Steve are still fearsomely quick down a slalom run, despite now being 66.

Following the slalom races, the brothers were honored by the White Pass staff as White Pass General Manager Rikki Cooper announced they had renamed Steve and Phil’s favorite ski run after them and their family.

Phil said he was thankful for what learning to ski at White Pass eventually led him to in life.

“A small portion of my life was ski racing, 18 years, and I’ve been retired for 40 years now, so it’s a small portion. But it was a very happy time and we had a lot of fun, got to see the world on somebody else’s dime and realized a childhood dream of going to the Olympic games and representing our country,” Phil told The Chronicle.

According to Cooper, the Mahre family not only helped put American skiing on the map — with Phil still being the only American to ever take the gold medal in an Olympic Slalom event, and no American having won silver again ever since Steve — but brought attention to White Pass and made the small, remote ski area a popular destination to this day.

“Thank you, to you guys and your family, for everything you’ve done … There’s just not enough I can say,” Rikki said.

The Chair Run — named so because it was a run directly beneath one of White Pass’ old ski lifts which has since been removed — is now known as the Mahre Run.

Despite being a black diamond run, the Mahre Run was Steve and Phil’s favorite even as children simply because it was the quickest route down the mountain.

For those who didn’t get the chance to see the Mahre brothers on Saturday, you might bump into them on another day because living in the Yakima area means they occasionally frequent White Pass’s slopes.

“I don’t get to ski here enough. We still get back here six to eight times a year because we’re busy on the road doing ski camps,” Steve said. “This is where it started for us, right here on this hill.”

“It’s nice to be out here. We appreciate being honored,” Phil added.

While the brothers grew up in Yakima, their skiing careers took them not only to the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, but various World Cup skiing events in which they both won multiple medals, along with the 1976 Innsbruk, Austria Winter Olympic games and the 1980 Lake Placid, New York Olympic games — where Phil also took silver in the slalom and gold in alpine combined skiing.

As for who’s the best skier between the two brothers, they still argue about it to this day, though, according to Phil, it was luck, not skill, that helped him beat his brother on that fateful February day in 1984.

During the event, each competitor had two runs, and the skier with the combined quickest time would win. While Phil had a good first run, Steve made it down faster.

“Our first run was like 10 o’clock, and the second was probably 1 o’clock,” Phil said. “So you had a three-hour window where everything had to be perfect, and if it wasn’t, your Olympics were not going to be successful.”

During their second runs, Phil had conceded he was basically competing for the silver medal, but Steve ended up making crucial mistakes, costing him valuable time down the course while Phil put down his own blisteringly fast final run.

“It cost him the win,” Phil added.

As for the experience itself, both Phil and Steve wish they could return.

“In 84, the people were the most outgoing. At Lake Placid, everyone just left,” Steve said. “(Sarajevo) was just completely different. Everyone was very, very welcoming.”

Despite having tried to return to visit the small Balkan country several times, the brothers have never been able to get back. Bosnia Herzegovina fell into turmoil following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Then, the Bosnian War raged from 1992 to 1995, resulting in bloody clashes between Serbian and Bosnian groups in the region and even leading to genocide and ethnic cleansing campaigns, along with protests resulting in violent clashes in the region in 2014.

Currently, tensions in the country between political and ethnic groups in the region are still high, and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs has Bosnia Herzegovina at travel advisory level 2 — meaning visitors should exercise “increased caution” due to threats of terrorism along with the presence of land mines in certain areas.

As for their runs against each other down the slalom course at White Pass on Saturday, their final race played out much like their 1984 Olympic performance, with Steve taking the lead early but Phil coming back just at the end to snatch the win away.

Both brothers have been inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and continue to host ski camps and teach lessons to aspiring skiers.

To watch the Mahre brothers’ gold and silver medal winning slalom runs in the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics, visit