Future looks bright for alpine association

The Yukon Alpine Ski Association will not be sending a team to February's Canada Winter Games, but that's not to say things are looking bad for the organization.

The Yukon Alpine Ski Association will not be sending a team to February’s Canada Winter Games, but that’s not to say things are looking bad for the organization.

With about a half-dozen returners to the association’s “provincial” race team (K1 and K2) and a former World Cup champion and Olympian working as program co-ordinator for the younger Snow Stars, Yukon alpine skiers may be a force to be reckoned with in years to come.

“It’s all about building towards the future,” said race team head coach Yves Titley. “We have very good skiers this year, returning with a year or two under their belt.

“We have the snow right now, but as long as it doesn’t get to minus 50, we’ll get some good mileage. We’ll be ready for the races outside (the Yukon).”

Helping build a strong foundation for the future, Alaskan born alpine skier Hilary Lindh, who won a silver medal at the 1992 Albertville Olympics, is returning for a second year to help with the Snow Stars (5 to 12-year-olds).

“So they have some skiing experience, but they haven’t been introduced to racing yet,” said Lindh. “So it’s skill development for young kids and we start to introduce what racing is all about.

“We want them to have some skiing experience, so they can, like, ski from the top of Mt. Sima to the bottom on (green circle run) Pokey. If they can do that run, they’ll probably fit in with our group.”

Aside from the Olympic silver, Lindh also won gold at the 1997 World Championships and a bronze the previous year for the US Ski Team. She was the first American to win a World Junior Championships downhill title, at the age of 16 in 1986. She also has three World Cup victories, all from 1994, and has 27 top-10 results from World Cup events.

With four national titles under her belt, Lindh was inducted to the US’s National Ski Hall of Fame in 2005.

Originally from Juneau, Lindh met her future Canadian husband while at grad school at UBC and moved to Whitehorse a few years ago.

“We came up because my parents are still in Juneau, so it seemed like a good way to go, so our daughter could see her grandparents and things like that,” said Lindh.

The Snow Stars program will be in full swing starting the second weekend in January, running for 10 consecutive weekends. Registration for the Stars opened on Thursday and will remain open until the end of the month.

“For kids who, maybe, have a little more advanced skill, they can have the option of going Saturday or Sunday,” said Lindh. “Last year we offered Saturday or Sunday, so offering both is new.

“We do a lot of free skiing, we try to cover a lot of terrain, in different conditions, and that’s really what improves skiing skills more than just about anything else.”

From the Snow Stars, it is hoped skiers will continue on to the race team, which this year consists of 10 skiers, including five or six returners. No team will be sent to the Canada Games in Halifax next year because of age requirements; all the skiers are under the minimum age of 15 and are not yet up to par with that level of competition.

“Age and also calibre,” said Titley. “When you want to send people to represent the territory, we want to build the athletes with a good, sound base, meaning plenty of races during the previous two years. Unfortunately we weren’t able to do that right now. Hopefully the next Canada Winter Games, we should have athletes who will have developed fully.

“At Canada Winter Games you have some junior-level skiers that will be going on the provincial teams, etcetera. And they’re competing as International Ski Federation skiers.”

However, the season will not be void of competition this year. So far the team has three Outside competitions planned, starting with a K1/K2 event in Kamloops, BC, January 15-16, plus the Yukon Cup, this year being held in Watson Lake in March.

Although no Yukon alpine skiers will be present at the Canada Winter Games, the territory will still have plenty of representation on the slopes and trails.

The Yukon Freestyle Ski Association, limited by only having two females on the current training squad, hopes to send four males and the two females to compete, filling six of the allotted eight spots.

Snowboard Yukon will also be assembling a team for the Games. With two boys and two girls allowed for each discipline (half-pipe and boarder-cross), the club could potentially send eight. However, with just two girls actively training, Snowboard Yukon is looking at a team with a similar make-up to the freestyle squad.

Cross Country Yukon will be composing the largest of the teams, sending five males and five females to Halifax.

In addition, for the first time the Yukon will be represented at the Games by a paraskier, Ramesh Ferris, who famously crossed the country in his handbike in 2008.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com