The Salmo Secondary ski team

The Salmo Secondary ski team

Salmo races to surprise provincial ski title

It’s a coup for Salmo Secondary — and the community’s ski hill.

It’s a coup for Salmo Secondary — and the community’s ski hill.

Salmo knocked off much larger competition en route to the B.C. high school provincial combined ski championship last week at Kimberley Alpine Resort.

But due to a complicated scoring system, they didn’t know they had claimed the blue banner until after returning home.

Coach Jon Francis says the six boys finished third overall, while the four girls were sixth, but when their results were combined, they came out tops among 26 schools. It was a marked improvement over last year, when Salmo was 16th.

Francis says they achieved the result without any standout individual performances — rather, they benefitted from the combination of team results. While they only had one top-10 finish, they picked up points by coming in neck-in-neck with each other.

“That’s why we ended up winning it,” he says. “It was the way we ended up packing them in. The schools we beat would place in the top five, but then their fourth person would be way down in 60th or 70th and we would have all of our people 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th.”

Unlike other high school sports, there are no divisions for skiing based on student population, so Salmo was in tough against the rest of the province — the boys finished third behind St. George’s and Collingwood, two Vancouver private schools.

Day one of the competition was a snowboarding race which Salmo didn’t participate in. On day two, each racer had two giant slalom runs, and on day three a ski cross run.

Francis had an inkling they had done well, but kept it to himself.

“I didn’t want to tell the team, but I had a really good feeling the guys would be top five. They ended up third. I knew that would be huge, but had no clue we were going to win the overall.”

He calls it a “huge story” for the community’s volunteer-run ski hill: “[The students] have grown up night skiing every day after school their whole lives.”

Francis says credit is due fellow coach Brett Pozzo, who has been working with the team at the local hill, running them through the gates.

Jeff Bates, director of the Kimberley event, said the Salmo athletes were “exceptional in both their attitudes and abilities. It is apparent to me that some of our smaller communities are producing a generation of young people that we can all be proud of, both in the sporting arena, but even more importantly in everyday life.”

He added that the Salmo bunch “appeared to be having a ball,” and was also very respectful of officials.