National team skiers from Canada and the U.S., as well as some of Whitehorse’s top skiers, got an early start to the cross-country season this past week.
Top skiers from throughout North America flocked to the Canmore Nordic Centre in Alberta for the third annual Winsport Frozen Thunder Classic. It’s a chance to start race season on natural snow, more than a month before World Cup and Haywood NorAm races start.
“It was just a fun way of getting back in the routine of doing a race,” said Whitehorse’s Emily Nishikawa, who is on Canada’s national development team. “We’re not in race shape yet because it’s only October, so the results don’t mean much at this point. It’s just fun to have a race with no pressure.
“It was a strong field. Most of the best Americans were taking advantage of Frozen Thunder. They come up for a training camp every year to get on snow … It’s neat to see so many people come out to use this unique training opportunity here in Canmore.”
At the end of last season, the Canmore centre collected a huge pile of snow and stored it under a blanket of sawdust through the off-season. The centre then used the snow to construct a roughly 1.6-kilometre loop and voila: a race on real snow before the first snowfall.
Frozen Thunder offered sprint races last Friday and distance races on Monday.
Whitehorse’s Dahria Beatty, who is also on Canada’s development team, reached the podium in the sprint. The 20-year-old placed third in qualifying and then took third in the final.
Beatty later placed 14th in the open women’s eight-kilometre free on Monday.
“It was the first race of the season, so it was good to get the lungs racing again, good to get back in the cold,” said Beatty. “The sprint on Friday went quite well. I was happy with the qualifier, to see I have the speed to be qualifying up with the top North American women.
“Monday was a much harder race for me. I was carrying some fatigue from a camp I did too weeks ago in Utah – it was an altitude camp. So my legs were quite tired.
“It’s early in the season, so it’s not bad.”
Nishikawa, who competed for Canada at the Sochi Olympics Games early this year, took 10th in the distance race Monday – fifth out of Canadians – and was sixth in the sprint qualifier last Friday.
“It’s early season, so this was a training race more than anything,” said Nishikawa. “(The sprint) was a ‘king’s court’ format, so we were mixed in with boys and girls … It was just a fun race, not a whole lot of pressure. It was not the usual format.
“It’s so early in the season it was just fun to get out there, put a bib on, have fun and not take it too seriously.”
Also taking part in the sprints were Whitehorse skiers Annah Hanthorn, Caelan McLean and Marcus Deuling, who were in Canmore for a national training camp.
Hanthorn began her first season on Canada’s national junior team placing sixth for junior women in the sprints.
McLean and Deuling, who are both on Cross Country Canada’s Talent Squad for promising skiers, came 16th and 20th, respectively, for junior men.
It’ll be hard for Nishikawa to top her last season, with her first Olympics and all, but the 25-year-old is going to try. Nishikawa is going to hop the pond mid-November for a training camp in Sweden before beginning the World Cup circuit in Finland at the start of December.
Beatty will also kick off the real competitive season out-of-country. She’ll start by heading to the U.S.‘s Super Tour in Bozeman, Montana early December before Haywood NorAm races in B.C. that are qualifiers for the under-23 world championships, “which is my big goal this year,” she said.
The first sets of NorAm races will also help determine which Yukon skiers will represent Yukon at the Canada Winter Games this February in Prince George, B.C.
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