Monday, March 7, 2016

Growth of the Skimo Canada National Team

Ski mountaineering racing in Canada has traditionally been a regional affair. While Whistler once held the most prestigious race in Canada, 8 years have passed since races were held on the final portion of the Spearhead Traverse. The Ski Mountaineering Competition Canada (SMCC) calendar is now with the exception of a race at Whitewater, entirely in the rockies. Thus the “national team” members are all based in Alberta and BC. I believe if you were based in Kimberley or Cranbrook, the entire calendar including Whitefish would be within a 4 hour drive. That’s not to say that people on the coast aren’t trying, it’s just that the resorts around there aren’t cooperating! And our officials are based in Calgary. The sport is very slowly gaining momentum with more people showing up in suits and light gear, and at the sharp end of the pack, more people training specifically and race times are getting faster.

Numbers on the national team aren’t increasing with the growth of the sport. For the 2010 and 2011 world championships, Canada sent a full, 8 person men's team and had to turn away interested racers. Down to 5 men in 2013. In 2015, only 3 Canadian men (and 1 Junior, Oliver Bibby, who stepped up for the Teams and Relay races) made the trip to worlds. Similar numbers to the 4 who went in 2008! Low numbers mean that we’ve been avoiding the politics that come with team selection and have been able to focus on being fast in February, rather than being fast in January just to make that team. The womens team has been steady at 3 members...
Racing is emerging out east having grown beyond the NE Rando Race series with the Skimo East series. These guys race a lot and yeah, they allow snowshoes and runners, but they make do with what they have. George Visser and Lyne Bessette, both former elite bike racers look to be logging the victories over there.

Meanwhile, the growth of Ski-mo in the United States has also brought in interested Canadian citizens living in the US. Canadians Rob Krar finished 3rd (2nd in the sprint) at the recent Wasatch Powderkeg North American Championships, while Tosch Roy finished 8th (5th in the sprint).

It will be interesting to see how these “out of series” racers stack up against the SMCC national team members if they are interested in 2017 World Championships. With no direct comparison, it could be difficult to select a team. Will there be a showdown at the 2016 Ken Jones Classic in a couple of weeks?

1 comment:

  1. George and Lyne are for sure leading the skimoeast series for now they are the best in the mountains right now but wait for the rookies to come. I am only focusing in skimo racing, I'm only 20 years old and I look forward for the SMCC one day. Nice article by the way. Keep up the good work with the team, you guys are doing an awesome job, congrats.

    -Arnaud Côté-Boisvert