The BC Alpine Team is in town training at Kimberley Alpine Resort. Arriving Tuesday, Feb. 23 and staying until the end of this week, the seven athletes and four coaches are carded high performance athletes and are therefore able to travel under current COVID regulations.
“Through the Provincial Health Officer (PFO) and viaSport, we are able to travel and train anywhere in B.C. with this group, because this is a provincial ski team,” said Johnny Crichton, athletic director for the BC Alpine Ski Association. “So we’re not breaking any rules by being here, we’re fully accredited and able to move according to our provincial government.”
READ MORE: Canadian Para-Alpine Team comes to train at Kimberley Alpine Resort
Crichton said the team loves to come to Kimberley to train and that the run they train on, the Dreadnaught, has been on their International Ski Federation (FIS) circuit for years.
Crichton said that the Dreadnaught is one of the few remaining speed tracks in Canada that is fully set up, maintained and serviceable, typically from January all the way until the end of the season.
“That’s the beauty of Kimberley,” Crichton said. “It’s just got an incredible environment here to develop our skills.”
The team’s head coach Nick Cooper is also originally from Kimberley and a number of the athletes are from the surrounding area.
“Kimberley’s very close to home, if not home for some of them, and just the setup here is fantastic,” Crichton said. “Unbelievable cooperation from the hill, Ted [Funston] the manager, Brian the operations manager and Donna Briggs and Lloyd Steeves who run the training centre here, it’s just fabulous.”
COVID has not been easy for this group of athletes and coaches. There are no races taking place in Canada, which is a challenge for them, as it impacts their international ranking.
“They have a world ranking, their FIS points, and that’s what they’re held to,” Crichton said. “Every other country in the world is racing right now, except Canada. So everyone’s world ranking is either staying the same or likely going down, and ours is going the other way.”
He said that how the team is ranked in the world is now going backwards for them. They’re trying to train as much as possible and improve upon their abilities while also trying to keep spirits high, so coming to train in a great environment like Kimberley is a good thing for them.
Missing the competition aspect is huge for these athletes, however, whose ultimate goal is to one day stand on an Olympic podium.
“These are all athletes that are gunning for our national ski team, they’re the development team and actually one of our guys that’s here is on the Canadian Ski Team,” Crichton said.
Going forward they are faced with a lot of uncertainty and don’t know what the spring and summer will hold for them, and so they just have their fingers crossed in the meantime that the province can make its way out of the pandemic, allowing for competition to resume.
In an ordinary year at this time the team would be “full-blown racing,” according to Crichton. At this point in the winter some of them would have just been returning from the World Junior Championships in Bulgaria, which Canada opted to pull out of this year due to many reasons, cost and quarantine times being some of the main ones.
Then there’d be the Nor-Am circuit, the North American Cup Circuit, which is also cancelled this year. That just then leaves just FIS racing, ordinarily happening around the province and across Canada, but that is also on hold.
“Right now all of our athletes in B.C. besides these ones at this level are only training and not able to compete, which can be really great for development, but the challenge with our sport is when you’re ranked internationally, when everyone else in the world is changing their ranking and we aren’t, we are simply sliding Canada further down the list.”
He added that Canada will be left with a challenge to climb out of the rankings hole they’ve been left in once competition resumes.
In addition to the speed track the team enjoys and flies down at speeds over 100 kilometers per hour, Crichton said that they love to Kimberley because it feels like a second home for many of them; they come here often they have connections with community and love the people here.