Five local members of the Whitewater Ski Team got to train along side some top athletes preparing for the Olympics as they gear up for their own racing season.
Apex Resort out of Penticton is one of three hills offering training in October and November because of the quality snow they make and that attracts teams from all over the world.
Arlo Henderson, Henry Leishman, Oso Punchard, Liam Jones and Yael Oosthuisen trained alongside the Canadian, Russian and Japanese National Teams, at a venue not yet open to the public.
“That was pretty neat for the kids to be side by side with these national teams, especially in an Olympic year,” said Whitewater head coach Dylan Henderson.
The early season camp “on snow” was spent building on the young skiers’ foundations for the racing year. Two days were spent skiing slalom and another on GS.
“We’re starting with the basics and building up to a great place where we can really start going fast,” said Henderson. “We’re working on basic balance and movement, body position — getting the athletes fired up.”
With the Olympics going this February in Sochi, Russia, the local team is keeping a close eye on Nelson’s Sasha Zaitsoff who is making a run for the world event as part of the Canadian National Team.
While he travels the world skiing, Zaitsoff maintains a close connection to his Whitewater roots making an impression on young athletes.
“It’s exciting for us,” Henderson said. “Our ski team is really rooting for him and it’s a discussion point. He spent time with us doing dryland training this fall. Whenever he’s in town, he gives me a call and joins us.”
Every race up to the Olympics counts and Zaitsoff won’t know if he’s qualified until a few weeks before the event.
“He’s making a 100 per cent effort to get there,” said Henderson. “The Olympics have us really fired up and we have that actual personal connection with the Olympics this year which makes it all that more real.
That all-out effort is a great motivator for young skiers. The Whitewater Team has amassed a good crew of advancing athletes and Henderson said it’s time to recruit some more of the littlest skiers — kids as young as 5-years-old are welcome to join in.
“They just have to know how to ski and ride the lift,” he said. “People may think that you need to be a high-level skier before you can join but it’s not that at all.”
The entry level Nancy Greene program for kids under 12 starts in January. In that 10-week-long season kids spend each practice with the same coach.
“That’s important,” said Henderson. “They learn more than just skiing. It’s a real team atmosphere and the actual racing is non-competitive. It’s all about skill and participation… every child wants to do their best and that’s all ski racing encourages is for everyone to do their own personal best.”
If you have the desire to have fun on the snow, learn to ski extremely well and become part of a wonderful group of racers, and parents, visit the team’s website at whitewaterskiteam.ca or contact president Tracy Punchard at (250) 505-5090.
“Ski racing is the best foundation for any skiing you will do and I think it does the best job of creating life-long skiers,” Henderson said.