WINTHROP — Tim LaVallee hears voices when he returns to this neck of the woods.

Sometimes the exhortation comes from his former football coach, Fred Douglas. Other days, it’s the prodding of his first ski coach, the late Lehan “Pete” Edwards.

“Those guys are what inspired me to get into coaching,” LaVallee said. “I idolized those two guys.”

They’ve driven him as he built championship ski programs at Oxford Hills, Telstar and Gould Academy. They followed him to the U.S. Ski Team, to the University of Colorado and back home to Bates College.

Now in his late 60s, LaVallee experienced that persuasion at the latest bend in his road. Only this time, Douglas and Edwards weren’t merely giving supernatural guidance. It’s almost as if they chose the assignment.

When Winthrop High School’s alpine ski coach resigned in the preseason, athletic director Chris Moreau called LaVallee, hoping to use his connections in the industry to find a qualified replacement on short notice.

The search came up empty, and somewhere in the ongoing conversation, LaVallee — who was inducted into the Maine Ski Hall of Fame in 2008 — was asked if he would consider the gig.

“Some guys just don’t know how to say no,” LaVallee quipped.

LaVallee considered himself “retired” from the coaching ranks, even though he has been running youth training programs at Mount Abram and now Black Mountain of Maine since the completion of his last full-time job at Gould.

First, he offered to enroll the Winthrop alpine team of seven into his program at Black Mountain in Rumford, nearly an hour from the Ramblers’ home.

But neither LaVallee the teacher nor LaVallee the competitor accepts doing anything halfway. The skiers’ commitment and resolve strengthened his. Soon, LaVallee was making daily, back-and-forth trips between Winthrop and his home in Bethel, and overseeing daily training sessions at the nearby Kents Hill School alpine center.

“What a true gem to have working for us,” Moreau said.

“I guess, to be honest, in some way I feel I have a debt to pay. Winthrop High School is where it all started for me,” said LaVallee, a 1963 WHS graduate. “Pete dragged us all over the countryside to give us opportunities to compete. I thought maybe this was my time to give back.”

LaVallee’s initial commitment to the Winthrop skiers was 35 days of skiing, mostly on weekends, at Black Mountain. His program there focuses mostly on high school students, with heavy participation from the Oxford Hills and Maranacook school systems.

But once he was in, LaVallee was all in.

“I said, ‘Look, I’m a driver.’ This is how it’s going to be,” LaVallee said. “I want to give the kids one or two days a week to recuperate, but when we can be on snow, we’re going to be on snow. And when we can’t be on snow, we’re going to be in the classroom talking about things like technique and sports psychology. I’m trying to give the kids a world-class program at Winthrop High School.”

The teacher-to-student ratio is ideal for instruction. LaVallee has five boys and two girls on the team.

One skier is new to the sport. He couldn’t have chosen a better time. LaVallee himself never took up skiing until a trip to Sugarloaf at age 13.

“It’s a kid who said, ‘I’d like to try alpine racing,’ and I said, ‘Hey, let’s do it,'” LaVallee said.

Winthrop’s hasn’t sent enough to skiers to the state meet to score points in both alpine races since the boys of 2009.

As is his custom, though, LaVallee is enjoying the chance to develop individual talent. He expects senior J.J. Jansen and freshman Charlie DeHaas to open some eyes.

“The Jansen kid, if he pays attention to detail, he’s going to be a top performer at MVCs and states,” LaVallee said. “The DeHaas kid is a technically sound skier. Physically he hasn’t really grown into his body yet. They’re all super to work with. They’re trying hard.”

They get LaVallee’s complete program, although he acknowledged that the code has been pared down by virtue of the wisdom that comes with experience.

“I used to have a thousand things on my list, and now I’ve broken it down to three,” LaVallee said. “One, do the best you can, every day. Two, always do the right thing. And three, treat other people like you want to be treated. My focus my entire career, I mean, we all want to win, but more important is to teach life skills.”

Perhaps that’s another contribution from the two men who taught LaVallee so many of his enduring lessons.

Douglas, 82, still lives in town. Edwards died in 2011.

“I had a special bond with those two guys. Pete, once I came back to Maine from Colorado (in 1990), we were close the whole time,” LaVallee said. “I get a little bit emotional thinking about treading in those footsteps.”


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