The Canadian Para-Alpine Ski Team is here to train at Kimberley Alpine Resort (KAR), and the Bulletin spoke with their athletic director Matthew Hallat to learn about how the team is able to travel and train amid the pandemic.
There’s a total of 22 people coming, 10 athletes, two guides and 10 staff. The younger athletes, the Next Gen team, arrived in Kimberley on Saturday from Panorama where they’ve been in a training group for the past week. They will be training until they depart on Feb. 11.
”We are very pleased to have the Canadian Para-alpine Ski Team back in Kimberley!” said Ted Funston, Area Manager with KAR. “In a year where events and competition are severely limited for elite athletes (who are permitted to travel under the BC and Federal Health Orders) it is important for them to have a venue to train and keep their skills sharp in, and we’re glad that they’ve chosen Kimberley.”
The World Cup team came from their homes and arrive in town on Sunday. Everyone was tested prior to departure, and those who needed to travel by air were tested again at the airport in Calgary. They will be in town until Feb. 22.
“In Canada and in the province British Columbia high performance sport, which national sporting organizations such as Alpine Canada, are allowed to travel and train, they have their own protocols” said Hallat.
“I consider this to be like office spaces. Offices in various parts of the country are able to be open because they have new and robust protocols: keeping social distancing, washing your hands, you can’t fill your boardrooms in the same way that used to be able to do and you follow those protocols.”
The team has traveled to different parts of the country and each region has their own particular set of rules, which the team is required to follow, pertaining to how they enter the area, how they operate once here, and what protocols to follow should someone fall ill.
“We’ve reviewed their Covid-19 protocols and plans and they will have to follow all of the same rules the rest of us have to, plus some more, which give us confidence that they are very serious about working to keep us all safe,” Funston said. “We’d like to thank Lloyd and Donna and the rest of the crew at Dreadnaught Racing for getting the racecourse ready and for coordinating this visit.”
In addition to Federal and Provincial regulations that they abide by, they then must respect the particular guidelines of each city, and in this case the regulations of Kimberley Alpine Resort as well; for example wearing masks and socially distancing on the chairlifts, in indoor spaces and at the base.
“Thankfully we’re an outdoor sport, which makes this significantly easier than indoor sports for obvious reasons,” Hallat said. “Along that line, we’re under the various jurisdictions and then you get to where we operate as a team and we keep it as much outside as possible, we don’t try to mingle between rooms as much as humanly possible, we’re always wearing our masks when we are outside of our own rooms and then we’re enjoying skiing outside on the ski hills, more than two metres from everybody else.”
The team and its guides and staff will be staying in their bubble. Hallat said they plan to go shopping and cook in their rooms for the majority of their meals. If they order takeout or go to one of our local restaurants, they will abide by the rules put in place by that establishment.
This isn’t the first time the team has come to Kimberley to train, and when asked what it is they like about KAR so much, Hallat said that the resort is “a tremendous kind of plug-in and play training facility in the middle of winter.”
“We show up and the nets are up and we can run downhill and Super-G and that’s pretty rare anywhere,” Hallat explained. “Then add to that, you walk out of your hotel room and you’re on the lift and of course we’re in Canada which is always nice, things like jet lag are not really a factor. And as far as skiing goes it’s reasonably affordable — a relative term in the world of ski racing.”
Like the rest of the world, the team’s past year was not what they had in mind. Ordinarily, their objectives are to be successful at the highest levels of their sport and bring home medals for Canada.
The main event for the year would have been the World Championships, scheduled for February in Norway. The test event was scheduled in Beijing in March. The team found out early in December that both those events were cancelled.
After that Hallat said there was a bit of a scramble to add venues to the calendar, which were added, and they were scheduled to go to Austria in February, but the new government regulations for hotel quarantines came out and were prohibitive in many ways, not the least of which being financially.
The team decided to stay in Canada and their year has since been largely based around training.
“This year, the way I’ve looked at it is a) can we stay healthy, and I mean that in terms of COVID healthy,” Hallat said. “We’re ski racers so I mean that in terms of physically healthy and I mean that in terms of mentally healthy as well, because that’s a challenge for everybody these days, how can we balance those things.
“Number two is can we continue to keep training on the ski hills, because that’s not a given everywhere and so it’s important for us to maintain contact with the snow and wind in our face and keep that going.
Three is how do you stay motivated? These are people who are used to being racing every day throughout much of the winter and that’s changed dramatically.”
For example, Hallat said they will be able to build a roller at KAR and be able to train on it multiple times, which changes the game for the athletes, in addition to changing the environment and setting for them and keeps things fresh and interesting.
From Kimberley they will likely go to Whistler to do some dry-land training, and then do spring training at Sunshine in April.
Despite the disappointment of not being able to compete, Hallat said he and the team are still extremely thankful to still be able to do what they love to do.
“We feel immensely grateful and actually I would say the culture of the team is actually in a pretty incredible place,” he said. “It shows that they’re incredibly resilient, which is a good space to be in these days.
“We’ve also had to look at ourselves and ask what we’re meant to represent and I think as a national team we’re meant to represent things that are positive about being Canadian, the values of being Canadian. We’re meant to represent at the highest level and to hopefully be successful there and we’re just doing our best to continue to do that. Keep the communities we’re going into safe and provide some positivity to hopefully give everybody a bit of a boost when times are a little bit tough.”
You can follow and learn more about the team here and on Kimberley Alpine Resort’s social media channels.