At 20 years old, Wade Cox did something no other skier of that age has done to this day. He beat Andy Mapple to win his first professional men's slalom title in 1989 at the Coors Light Pro Tour stop in St. Louis, making him the youngest ever to do so. Forty-two professional wins have followed: the Masters, the U.S. Open and even the Bud Pro Tour Slalom Overall title in 1995 and 1996. And they were all fought primarily against Mapple.
”We've been skiing against each other for nearly 20 years now,” Wade says. They first faced off in March 1985. “For 15 of those years we skied as rival contenders, and for a few years we even skied as absolute enemies. I guess when you're both hunting for the same spot and you're both very passionate, it gets extremely emotional. Now I see us as Jack and Arnie, the golfers, and we're more like the greatest of friends. It is certainly unique.”
As Mapple heads into retirement, Cox has renewed his sponsorship endorsements for two more years and plans to be around through at least 2006.
WS: Wade, rumor has it that you're going to do some special promotions for MasterCraft this year that might involve Supercross and Indy car racing events. Any truth to that?
Wade Cox: This will be the first time I've ever been involved with a boat giveaway. MasterCraft is actually giving away my practice boat at the end of the season. [Sign up at MasterCraft.com] “Big Red,” MasterCraft's semi truck, will have a life-size photo of me down the side and will be at all the Supercross events. We'll have a pro rider racing out of the truck and he and I will be signing autographs together. MasterCraft is also sponsoring Tomas Scheckter, the Panther Racing Pennzoil driver. I'm hoping to make a few appearances with him as well.
Now that you're spending a lot of time as a coach yourself, what coaches would you say have been influential in your career?
I've really skied with Mike Ferraro since I was 11. There were times through my teens and 20s when I didn't ski with him. However, when I look back over my career, I was winning the most when I was training with him.
Do you still get nervous before tournaments?
Yeah, and I still don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I do know if you can turn your nerves into positive energy you're able to do incredible things. When your nerves turn negative, however, you're just a train wreck waiting to happen.
Who are your favorite skiers to watch these days?
Even though Andy's retired, it's impossible not to want to go watch Andy run 39 or 41. He's just so intense. Willie [Asher] is great to watch and so is Jamie [Beauchesne], and [Chris] Rossi too. I've learned a lot watching these guys now. It's also impressive to watch [Chris] Parrish make 39 look like everyone else's 32s.
What are your expectations for the future?
I'm not really sure. I'm feeling more enlightened about my skiing than I have in quite a few years and I'm feeling fortunate. In January of 2000 I thought my career might be over because of my back. So, to be sitting here five years later feeling like I'm a contender — that every round of every tournament I'm in it — well, that's all I could ever hope. If I win again, that might be it. I might pull the walk-away John Elway.
Will two skiers ever dominate like you and Andy did in the 1990s?
It was a great run, that's for sure, but I think it will happen again. It sort of happened in jump with Sammy [Duvall] and [Mike] Hazelwood. Sometimes you need that other person to drive you that much further. I pushed Andy and he pulled me along. I beat the best of all time. How cool is that?
What's been the highlight of your career?
Being the youngest male ever to win a pro tour event still ranks right up there, and winning the Masters is a huge deal. I'll never forget the 2000 Orlando pro tour stop against Andy where we tied and went to four tie-breakers and he got knocked out. That could just be the culmination of everything in skiing. But, hey, there's been a bunch of highlights and I hope there's a few more.
Sponsors: MasterCraft boats, HO skis, O'Neill wetsuits and Accurate lines
Stick you ride: 67″ HO Monza
Skier you idolized as a kid: Carl Roberge
Favorite fast-food joint: Taco Time (West Coast chain)
Outside-the-industry dream sponsor: Nike (“for like 2 mil a year would be good”)
Actor who would play you in a movie: Vince Vaughn or Nicolas Cage
Funniest ski garb you've worn: Those “Carl” shorts — tight neoprene wetsuit shorts that I would never wear today
Your guilty pleasure: Charging a box of cereal at about 11 o'clock at night — the whole box