Yukon skiers lightning fast at Frozen Thunder

Many of Canada's top cross-country skiers, including four from Whitehorse, got back into race mode at the WinSport Frozen Thunder Classic on Monday at Alberta's Canmore Nordic Centre. The fourth annual event isn't worth points.

Many of Canada’s top cross-country skiers, including four from Whitehorse, got back into race mode at the WinSport Frozen Thunder Classic on Monday at Alberta’s Canmore Nordic Centre.

The fourth annual event isn’t worth points. It’s simply a fun way to ease into another season, said Whitehorse’s Emily Nishikawa and Dahria Beatty.

“It’s always a fun event to kick off the season,” said Nishikawa. “It’s pretty low key, there’s no pressure – it’s October. It’s kind of more for fun than anything.

“I had a good day. It shows where my fitness is. So that’s a confidence booster heading into the season.”

“It was really nice to be out racing again and have that competitive feel,” said Beatty. “It’s always great to do that first race of the season.

“The conditions were pretty good. They were soft though, so it was challenging on the technique and good practice for Europe.”

The classic-ski sprint event was held on a 1.6-kilometre loop made from snow from last winter stored under a blanket of sawdust all summer.

The two Whitehorse skiers advanced through three rounds to finish on the podium in open women. Nishikawa took first and Beatty third.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve done a ski race, so it’s good to have a no-pressure situation to get back into it, remember what it’s like to ski race and go through the whole routine of a ski race,” said Nishikawa. “We don’t put too much thought into the results because it’s October and it doesn’t really matter. It’s a fun event and a good workout.”

Nishikawa, a Sochi Olympian and two-time world championship competitor, will once again represent Canada on the FIS World Cup circuit this winter. The 26-year-old produced three top-30 results on the World Cup tour in Europe last season. Her first this season will be in Finland at the end of November.

Beatty, 21, took third in open women after placing second behind Nishikawa in the opening qualifier round.

“It’s good to get back in that race mentality before the season even starts. We have about a month now before the start of the season, so it kind of gets you back in that mind set and helps to tune up those final things that need to be adjusted,” said Beatty.

Fellow Yukoner Knute Johnsgaard pulled off a similar feat. He placed second in the open men’s qualifier before finishing eighth in the end.

Frozen Thunder may not be highly competitive, but there’s still plenty of stiff competition there. In the qualifier Johnsgaard placed one spot behind Canadian World Cup medalist Lennard Valjas, and in front of national team skiers Jesse Cockney and Ivan Babikov.

“Not everyone in Canada is there, but it is quite competitive,” said Johnsgaard. “(Valjas) is one of the best guys to try and follow, so it was pretty fun, a good opportunity, to race against him.

“What it comes down to is the Frozen Thunder is a fun event. We’re still month away from racing and this is a practice event more than anything … For me it was a training race.

“I’ll try not to get too excited by my result.” (Small chuckle.)

Beatty and Johnsgaard, who are on the national development team with Nishikawa, will open their season with the U.S. Super Tour at the end of November. They will then do some NorAm races in December before heading to Europe in the New Year for OPA and World Cup races.

“It’ll be pretty exciting. I’ve ever only had one World Cup start in my career,” said Johnsgaard. “To be guaranteed a few World Cup starts this year, it’ll be more World Cups than I’ve ever raced before.”

Both Nishikawa and Beatty have been on Canada’s national teams for years, but this season will be Johnsgaard’s first at the senior level.

The 22-year-old placed 14th in a sprint race to lead Canada at the FIS Nordic Junior/U23 World Championships in Kazakhstan last season. He then won Yukon its first gold of the 2015 Canada Winter Games.

He has been working hard during the so-called off-season.

“We call it the off-season, but really that’s when most of our training happens,” said Johnsgaard. “In the summer is when we’re training the most hours.

“The off-season was very productive for me. Lots of really solid training, stayed healthy, and with all the testing we’ve been doing it is showing I’m improving. That’s a good sign.”

This season will be a particularly exciting one for Team Canada skiers as they host the best in the world in an eight-event Tour of Canada – four in Quebec and four in Alberta – in the first week of March.

Nishikawa, Beatty and Johnsgaard then get to come home to race as Whitehorse hosts the 2016 Haywood Ski Nationals. Between 450 and 500 skiers are expected to compete at the 89th annual event in March.

The three weren’t the Yukon skiers at Frozen Thunder. Whitehorse’s Natalie Hynes placed eighth in junior women.

“I’m looking forward to building off my great year last year and I had a really good summer of training – really consistent,” said Nishikawa. “I’m feeling good, excited and ready to get racing.”

Contact Tom Patrick at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3-hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council will vote on the second reading of the Official Community Plan amendment on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Future area of Whistle Bend considered by council

Members set to vote on second reading for OCP change

The City of Whitehorse’s projected deficit could be $100,000 more than originally predicted earlier this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City deficit could be just over $640,000 this year

Third quarter financial reports presented to council

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks during a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Oct. 30. Masks became mandatory in the Yukon for anyone five years old and older as of Dec. 1 while in public spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
As mask law comes into effect, premier says $500 fines will be last resort

The territory currently has 17 active cases of COVID-19

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Ranj Pillai, minister of economic development, during a press conference on April 1.
Government rejects ATAC mining road proposal north of Keno City

Concerns from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun were cited as the main reason for the decision


Wyatt’s World for Dec. 2, 2020

The new Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation council elected Dec. 1. (Submitted)
Little Salmon Carmacks elects new chief, council

Nicole Tom elected chief of Little Salmon Carcmacks First Nation

Submitted/Yukon News file
Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to the unsolved homicide of Allan Donald Waugh, 69, who was found deceased in his house on May 30, 2014.
Yukon RCMP investigating unsolved Allan Waugh homicide

Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to an unsolved… Continue reading

A jogger runs along Millenium Trail as the sun rises over the trees around 11 a.m. in Whitehorse on Dec. 12, 2018. The City of Whitehorse could soon have a new trail plan in place to serve as a guide in managing the more than 233 kilometres of trails the city manages. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2020 trail plan comes forward

Policies and bylaws would look at e-mobility devices

Snow-making machines are pushed and pulled uphill at Mount Sima in 2015. The ski hill will be converting snow-making to electric power with more than $5 million in funding from the territorial and federal governments. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mount Sima funded to cut diesel reliance

Mount Sima ski hill is converting its snowmaking to electric power with… Continue reading

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read