With the National Ski Cross Championships already underway this week, many young local athletes are excited to see their heroes in action and will use the experience to perfect their own skills on the hill.
“I think it’s cool to know that our hill is suitable to have a national event,” said Chantel Wickson, a 15-year-old ski cross racer with the Smithers Ski and Snowboard Club.
Wickson, along with fellow racers Kalum Huxtable and Kaillian Smale, are hoping to volunteer with the event, either working bibs or video-taping the finishes.
“I’m really excited. All my favourite athletes are going to be there,” said Huxtable, adding he hopes to catch national ski cross racers Brady Leman and Marielle Thompson while they compete on Hudson Bay Mountain.
Other athletes are also excited to see national-level competitions so close to home.
“I think it’s pretty awesome that they chose Smithers just to host it,” said Liam Huxtable, adding that he plans on attending as many races as he can.
“I want to see all the races,” said the 12-year-old.
According to Philippe Bernier, co-chair of the event, it’s valuable experience for up-and-coming ski cross athletes to see professionals compete.
“We’ve embraced ski cross as a club and now we have the ability to show our young athletes what it takes to be a world cup athlete,” said Bernier.
“It also gives us the opportunity to have our young kids meet world cup athletes and maybe aspire to be world cup athletes.”
In an effort to upgrade the current ski cross track on Hudson Bay Mountain, they have brought in a driver from Tabor Mountain in Prince George, where nationals were originally slated to take place.
“Essentially what we’ve done is we’ve extended it up the hill another 100 metres and we’ve made the banks bigger and wider,” said Bernier.
Wickson, Smale and Huxtable plan on being up on the mountain as much as they can and hope to pick up some tips and tricks from the pros on the new terrain.
“You actually get to see the techniques that your favourite skiers do in person, which is amazing,” said Smale, adding that she will pay close attention to racers’ starts and their air time.
Wickson hopes to pick up tactics on passing and knowing what is the proper angle to be on a bank.
“Then you can change the way you ski,” she said.
Huxtable wants to see how competitors use the terrain to their advantage.
“I want to see how they’re coming around the banks and watching their edges to start their turns because we need to work on that,” he said.
The championships end on Thursday, March 19 with ladies’ and men’s ski cross, followed by an awards ceremony at Bovill Square at 4 p.m. to give people in the community a chance to meet the athletes.