Hitting the slopes

Paul Clinton

Phil Carter doesn't need much to get his adrenaline running. Only

about four inches of snow on a choice ski slope.

The 42-year-old Carter, who owns a Costa Mesa shop where he dispenses

snowboards, skis and other equipment rentals, loves to hit Mt. Baldy and

other areas known for their high degree of difficulty.

"When there's four feet, anybody that's any good is at [Mt.] Baldy

whether they have a job or not," Carter said. "It's one of my favorite

places to go."

Skiers and snowboarders who head to the back side of Mt. Baldy, as

they "go back-country," they're in for some of the most treacherous runs

in the state, Carter said. The terrain is natural, not groomed like Snow

Summit and other resorts.

That situation makes it an adrenaline rush for junkies like Carter,

whose daring life has taken him from one high-risk activity to the next.

Carter has raced motorcycles, flown speed planes and dropped off his

share of snowcapped precipices. His religious beliefs have allowed him to

take those risks, he said.

"Just being on the edge allows you to enjoy life," Carter said. "I've

got a higher power that's always with me."

On days when he isn't tearing it up on a snowy slope, Carter can be

found in Phil's Ski and Snowboard, located behind a gas station at the

intersection of Fairview Road and Baker Street.

Carter grew up in Costa Mesa, a town he still calls home. Not long

after graduating from Costa Mesa High School in 1977, the avid sportsman

began racing motorcycles for a living.

Carter found himself racing, and winning, many of the Supercross and

Motocross events held in the city and all over Orange County in the early

1980s. He had raced bikes since he was 9.

After finding himself in the winner's circle, Carter began to find

himself in the offices of sponsors. Revenue generated by logos on the

suits and motorbikes are the lifeblood of any racing professional.

After retiring, Carter went back to school. His two years at Orange

Coast College netted him a two-year degree in air transportation.

In 1984, Carter earned his pilots license.

He took a job at Long Beach Airport, where he drove a field truck.

Carter met a friend who was a pilot at Continental Airlines, who raced

T-6 trainer planes for the Navy.

It wasn't long before Carter was racing the planes in Reno, Nevada.

A year or so later, Carter began dating a girl whose parents owned a

ski rental shop in Mesa Verde. They eventually asked Carter to manage the

struggling store.

Business began to pick up under Carter's hand. It was going so well

they even asked him to remain on after encouraging their daughter to send

him packing.

"When she went to college, they didn't want us dating," Carter said.

"They wanted her to marry a doctor or a lawyer, which she did."

The store took off, as Carter began to teach people how to use the

equipment he was renting them. He eventually bought the shop and

relocated it to its current location.

On the side, Carter helps out with church ski trips. He cuts deals for

teenagers from Calvary Church Newport Mesa who sign up for that church's

annual Easter ski trip.

"He gets very little out of it, other than helping these kids," said

Eric Williams, the church's youth minister. "He's a super, mellow guy ...

He's a good guy."

-- Paul Clinton covers the environment and John Wayne Airport. He may

be reached at (949) 764-4330 or by e-mail ato7

paul.clinton@latimes.comf7 .

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