Washington Ski International is Sam Mantis and Sam Mantis is Washington Ski International.
If something goes wrong at one of WSI's weekly amateur ski races, there's no one to blame but Mantis. If something goes right, there's only him to pat on the back.
"May I have your attention please?" Mantis shouted through the din and his walrus mustache at Bryce Resort in the Virginia mountains last weekend."All right everybody, shut up!"
A brief hush fell over the lounge at Bryce, which at the moment was occupied by 150 or so skiers. Twenty were WSI racers, holding down a tiny corner with Mantis. The others couldn't care less, but Mantis wanted the world to hear his message.
"Washington Ski International had a good race here at Bryce today," he said, "and we'd like to thank everybody who came out and helped make it a success."
Everybody. I.e., Sam Mantis.
Mantis is that most unlikely of government bureaucrats -- a guy who saw what he thought was a problem, went through normal channels to fix it, then when nothing happened went out and fixed it all by himself. And kept it fixed.
Mantis, an engineer with the FAA, decided three years ago that Washington needed a way for recreational skiers to test themselves against each other. He believes racing makes fair skiers into good ones and good skiers into better ones.
He called the gaint local ski clubs -- Black Ski, the Fagowees, Washington Ski Club and others -- and offered his help in setting up a program.
"As usual," said Mantis, "nothing happened. So I just started calling up the ski mountains and setting up races. I gave us a name, bought some ribbons and prizes and made up a schedule and some mailing lists."
Bingo. Washington Ski International.
Last weekend was standard WSI fare. Matis left Washington Friday evening and drove the 2 1/2 hours to Bryce, where he took a motel room and drank a lot of beer.
He was up at 7 a.m. Saturday and has his table set up at Bryce by 8. He stayed there until 11:30, bearding passersby into signing up for the day's race, which cost $3.
Twenty skiers entered. By noon Mantis had climbed the mountain and helped supervise the course layout. The skiers came barreling down through the gates in various stages of disarray. The race was over in an hour and Mantis repaired to the bar, where he worked on final standings and times.
At 3 he made the awards, at 4 he was packed up, and by 4:30 he was on the road, starting the four-hour drive to Blue Knob in Pennsylvania, where he'd do it all over on Sunday.
"Believe me," he said, "it's a love of labor. I sure don't make any money at it."
"Money?" asked Sallie Mitchell, who has raced with WSI for three years. "Gosh, I'd hate to guess how much it's cost him."
Who races with WSI? It's a mixed bag of moderately competitive types aged 20 to 60.
Dave Mountcastle of the Virginia Ski Club was last year's top racer. He was on hand at Bryce, tuning up for the following day's Governor's Cup race at Homestead.
"These races are excellent for a guy like me," said Mountcastle. "I can drink three beers before a WSI race. It loosens you up." He drained his 11 a.m. Schlitz and headed for the slopes.
Mountcastle's girlfriend, Mary Cottingham, liked the looks of the Bryce field. "Hey, I'm the only one in my class. All I have to do is finish and I win." Which she did.
John Ohman of the Fagowees Ski Club figures racing with WSI has helped his skiiing immensely. But what he figures will help him most of all is his birthday next year, which will put him in the 50 and-up bracket and assure him some victories.
The snow at Bryce wasn't really snow Saturday. It was ice, created by an all-day Friday rain. The race course was loose, with plenty of room to turn between the gates.
"Anybody can make it down this course," Mantis said.
Still, skiers often come down in attitudes of distress and undress.
Like Bill King of Richmond, who appeared around the last bend with neither pole in working order. He made a couple of last-ditch swoops and turns and came to a stop on his rump 100 yards from the finish.
"I don't even know how I got in this race," said King. "I haven't been on skis for 15 years."
And so it goes in Sam Mantis' little world of ski racing for fun.
"Oh, I don't know," said Mantis, "I'd like to set up another division for the northern clubs up in Pennsylvania and New York State, and have a race between division champions at the end of the season."
But that isn't likely.
At least not until they find a Northern States Sam Mantis.
WSI is racing both days next weekend. Races are open to anyone 20 or older with the $3 fee.
Saturday races start about noon in Seven Springs, Pa.; Sunday's about the same time at Wisp in Western Maryland.
For information write WSI, 4220 McCain Court, Kensington, Md. 20795.