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Mara White

Racing with a little help from some friends
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You know what is even more expensive than skiing? Ski racing, or in this case ski cross, an aggressive race format with jumps, banked turns, and multiple skiers on the course at one time. Especially when one of your kids gets good enough to begin racing all over the world.

How does a Tahoe kid become a successful ski racer if their parents do not have the disposable income needed to fund this exceedingly expensive sport? That is the dilemma confronting Tahoma residents Dick and Ulli White and their daughter Mara. They developed a unique solution that involves not only their whole family and the Tahoe community, but people around the world.

North Tahoe High School junior Mara White has developed into a great ski cross athlete, and is on the cusp of making the leap into the upper echelons of skiing. She is a member of the Project Gold Ski Cross Team, a development team for the U.S. Ski Team. Her acceptance to this team meant it was time for her to start traveling the world to train. In other words, when Tahoe was enjoying summer, Mara needed to go where there was snow and where the development team was headed: South America.

Unfortunately, gobs of money did not come falling from the sky or from the U.S. Olympic Committee to pay for the trip. In fact, even if Mara makes the U.S. Ski Team, since ski cross is a new sport that has only been in two Olympics, athletes don’t get a lot of help from the U.S. Olympic Committee.

The next step was for the Whites to begin reaching out for sponsorships. Squaw Valley has stepped up to the plate, providing Mara with free training and skiing at the resort.

“Squaw is one of the only dedicated ski cross programs in the country, and the coaching is amazing,” said Mara’s father, Dick White.

The Tahoe Art Haus and Cinema provided funding and is planning an event to help subsidize her costs for next year. Both Head Skis and Sun Valley Ski Tools have come through with much needed ski gear and supplies. While the gear is essential, it doesn’t cover the expenses associated with traveling. The Whites, passionately confident in Mara’s future as a ski cross athlete, came up with the idea to rent their house and use the money to help their daughter. This past July and August, they moved their family of four into a small travel trailer parked in the back of their business, Tahoma Meadows Bed and Breakfast, and put their house up for rent.

Then they created a GoFundMe account to help fund Mara’s racing efforts. They have already raised more than $11,000 since July.

“It was amazing that people were so eager to help me; now I can continue to train. Before, I didn’t know if I would have enough support to ski race this season,” Mara said.

While she is grateful for everyone that has helped, she is especially impressed that people who don’t even know her or live in Tahoe have reached out to help, including a retired BP executive in Colorado who donated to the account because she just likes to help kids who need support.

The money raised via the online account was enough to get Mara to Argentina this summer, where she got third place in her first international race.

“I was so glad I got to go. I improved a ton when I was there,” Mara said. “The snow was really good, which helped my jumping skills.”

Her goal now is to continue racing and capture enough points throughout the year to be invited to participate in the world championships this spring. So far, for the 2015/16 season, Mara has two races scheduled in Canada and several in Colorado and New Hampshire — all hopefully leading to the Junior Worlds in Italy.

Meanwhile, Mara is in the North Tahoe High Ski Academy, where students have four periods of classes in the morning with afternoons off to ski and train. She also alpine races for the high school team, finding that running gates is good training for her ski cross career. Her next educational stop: A college with a good ski program such as Sierra Nevada College or Westminster College in Utah.

When the White family goes to Mara’s races, they travel on a shoestring budget, staying in that same travel trailer where they spent the summer. It’s a long road to success, but they hope the money they raise will be enough to keep Mara going. While she is probably too young to be ready for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, they do have their sights set on 2022 in Beijing. They better get used to life in the trailer.

For more information or to help Mara, visit gofundme.com/skimaraski.

 
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December 13, 2018