A few years later we moved to “metropolitan Banff,” and I learned what it was like to ski on a team and to use “modern equipment.” We started traveling with our Moms and Dads to far-off lands like Hinton, Edmonton, Red Deer and Camrose. Our team started carpooling, and the car rides got more interesting with teammates. That team, the Banff Ski Runners, would eventually become my closest friends, an extension of my nuclear family―my ski family. We grew up together, laughed and cried together. We supported each other, witnessing the peaks and troughs of a young athlete’s lives.
The ’88 Olympics were a game changer; volunteering with Swiss Timing at the Canmore Nordic Centre was a fascinating and eye-opening experience. My idol became Gunde Svan of Sweden. I was amazed at how he completed the 50-km race and still was standing at the finish line looking calm and cool. Even though he had just dominated the competition, I could tell he was humble and gracious. View Video
My other distinct ’88 memory as a “green and white minion” was witnessing skiers who laid it all out and collapsed in a heap of skis and poles at the finish line. I had never seen that before and was amazed to see someone go “all out.” It was during that time that we met Coach Dave. It’s safe to say that Coach Dave changed the course of our lives. He helped us to realize our strengths and weaknesses as individuals within society, as skiers and as a team. He taught me and my other teammates how to look at skiing holistically. He was my coach for another nine years. We were his guinea pigs, his children. He was our leader, a mentor and a friend.
Our ski trips started moving further afield: to Westerns, Norams, Nationals and the Canada Winter Games. We became part of the Alberta Ski Team, more nationally focused. Those were incredible years of balancing academics and cross country skiing. The sport decided how late we stayed up, what we ate, who we spent time with. Our skiing determined what we did with our leisure time. In fact, teammates had distinct opinions on who we should and shouldn’t date. It was like having many brothers and sisters. It was a very, very fortunate time and place to be.
Then I moved to New Mexico, qualified for and joined their university ski team. I was the only North American on the cross country ski team. Most of my teammates were from Sweden, Norway, Austria and the Czech Republic. We skied all over the United States, did dryland training camps in the Grand Canyon, and ski camps in Colorado and Yellowstone. We skied at altitude on foot upon foot of snow less than an hour away from the university.
As our core Banff Ski Runner team got older, we started finding different interests in our lives. Although skiing no longer dictated the details in our lives, I would say that our skills at time management, goal setting, knowing what true healthy relationships are, how to fail and learn from it, how to win and learn from it, how to face our worst fears and overcome them, all came from cross country skiing. All those qualities and experiences played a part in who we are now, 20 years later. We still try to stay in touch, to keep tabs on our childhood roots.
It is such as pleasure to be part of the XC Bragg Creek ski community in the amazing Greater Bragg Creek area. To see my children enjoy the sport and be friends and teammates with “Creekers” and RockyView-ites” To grow as a club together. Not every skier will be a racer, and not every skier will embrace this sport now. It may not be until years later when they realize how good it is. It’s my wish for every child who skis with our club to have the opportunity to be part of a local community, part of a team. To feel supported and to keep a healthy, active, outdoor lifestyle for a lifetime. To know what it feels like to ski strong and fast, what it feels like to fail, and to set goals and work to obtain them. This sport is not easy―it has so many challenges and it is perfect.