Canby graduate Jacqueline Wiles teaches the next generation of skiers
Taking a pause from her busy schedule conquering mountains across the globe, Canby High alumna Jacqueline Wiles will travel to Mount Hood this month to train youth skiers.
The second annual White Pass Summer Race Camp will take place from July 7-13.
In her first year running the camp in 2016, 28 youth skiers signed up and Wiles says they benefited from the experience.
"Everyone had good improvement throughout the camp as well as a better understanding as far as the mental part of skiing, what they can take away from in the gym. I think they learned a lot, had a good time and got to know other racers around the area," she said.
Wiles, who is 25 years old, began skiing at age 2 and jump-started her professional racing dream straight out of high school. She didn't immediately excel at the international level and went through some years of struggle, but upped her commitment to fitness and then had a breakthrough stretch in 2013 and 2014. She reached the pinnacle of the sport in 2014 when she represented the United States at the Sochi Winter Olympics and finished 26th in the downhill competition. She also won the U.S. Alpine Championship downhill title in 2013 and 2014.
With decades of experience under her belt, she believes she's well equipped to help young racers.
"I have a lot of high level racing knowledge and feel like I can deliver a lot. It wasn't long ago that I was in their shoes," Wiles said.
And Wiles says the skiers' youthful exuberance inspires her as well.
"It's inspiring to see the pure joy and enthusiasm that the kids bring. Seeing how I impact them inspires me to work harder," she said.
Wiles, in part, attributes her ascension to the upper echelon of the professional skiing world to improved fitness habits and tries to impart the importance of training outside of the slopes to the young skiers.
"I try to give them insight in what it takes to make it to the next level. I wish I had known earlier about how getting in the gym and getting stronger supplements their skiing. They have to understand there are so many things you can do off the hill to improve your skiing," Wiles said.
Campers are broken up into groups of fives and are led by Wiles and other accomplished coaches. During the first three days, they will focus on fundamentals and proper skiing techniques such as keeping hips and ankles aligned. After taking a day off from the slopes for a fun activity on day four, they will hone their competitive racing skills in the final three days.
Aware of the onerous financial burdens associated with skiing, Wiles and Directors Mortgage instituted a scholarship program so that one racer can attend the camp for free.
"I think being where I am in my career, I have a great opportunity with one of my sponsors to give back to the community. I know how expensive our sport is. I wish it wasn't so expensive but it's the reality of skiing. If I can help any kid keep racing or stay on the mountain, I want to give them that opportunity," Wiles said.
Since 2014, Wiles has grown from an upstart racer on the tour to a seasoned veteran. She has finished in the top 15 in World Cup races three times this year including a third place finish in the downhill event at the Altenmarkt-Zauchensee in Austria. Also, Lindsey Vonn named her the first-ever Lindsey Vohn Foundation Athlete Ambassador in 2016.
She now knows the ins and outs of dozens of courses across the globe and says she's improved as a skier as well. She doesn't just hope to make the PyeongChang, South Korea Winter Olympics in 2018. She hopes to place highly.
"I've learned a lot about the mental side of ski racing as well as tactics and techniques. I think I'm in a really good place now and have a better self-awareness of what I am and what the Olympics mean. I want to go in as a threat and a competitor now," she said. "My goal is to make the team, represent my country and get a medal. Anything short isn't believing in yourself and having high enough goals."
Through competitive racing, Wiles has visited myriad countries in South America, Asia and Europe.
"I've learned so much about cultures and different perspectives around the world," she said.
And she plans to continue skiing competitively for the foreseeable future.
"I want to do this as long as my body allows me to. Racers are going into their 30s now. As long as I stay healthy, I'd love to do this as long as I can," she said.
As for the camp, above all else, she wants her pupils to know that hard work and self-belief can reap spectacular results.
"The biggest lesson I want to relay to them whether it be skiing or anything else, as long as they have a goal and they want to make that a reality, all they have to do is believe in themselves and work extremely hard. That's something I've learned in ski racing. It's a really important lesson," she said.