Summit Lake Ski Club welcomes West Kootenay Rio Tinto Alcan NGSL Racers - BC Alpine Ski Association

"It was an early morning start; 5am wake up and 6am pick up. Half opened eyes and groggy all around but also excited for the day ahead. Piling into Stephanie Robinson’s van we settled in for a long drive. We traveled for nearly two hours along a twisty, sometimes frightening road with a tall rock face on the right and steep drop off to a very cold looking lake on the left. Stephanie was determined to get us there dry and alive and so she gripped the steering wheel tighter and slowed down. Relief the road was not icy. En route we passed many deer (symbolized by gracefulness, purity of purpose, and swiftness) and a lone moose (headstrong and unstoppable), which surely must have been a good omen.

Stephanie asked Kaija and Rowen about their goals for the race and for both it was to get a medal; Rowen wanted to be first and Kaija hoped for second. Kaija displayed her astute learning from her one of a kind coach Grant as she rhymed off in detail all the things she would correct in her technique in order to achieve this. In another car the same question was being asked of Stephanie Proctor by her dad. Her goals were to have fun and try her best. If those two things had been achieved then it was a successful race. Later Stephanie Robinson and I felt a twinge of guilt for not encouraging the same pure kind of goals. On the other hand, they were there to race and we trusted that our kids knew we would be unconditionally proud of them.

Upon arriving at Summit Lake, the snow had just started falling, big wet flakes. This would mean lots of course maintenance, more specifically side slipping, if it kept up. As we drove in we could see the race course on a steep run, between two other steep runs just in front of us. It was rather impressive. (The sole T-bar services 500 vertical feet of skiing). First impressions were a straight course that was likely to be fast. We were told that the course had been set by Susie Madden, an ex National Team member. We were also cautioned not to make any quick judgments before doing a course inspection, which later confirmed our first impressions – for those who wanted some speed this straight course would provide the means. For the younger less experienced racers, this course offered the simplicity needed to get them to the finish. It could only be a skilled course setter who could meet the needs of these two very different sets of racers.

In the lodge as I asked parents what their goals were for the kids, it was unanimously agreed that having fun was the most important thing. I do have to admit that it is also true that when my daughter has a goal of coming in second, or maybe even a dream of being first, that becomes my goal for her as well. My ultimate goal is to help her fulfill her competitive goal while ensuring she continues to love racing. I did not ask but I wonder how true this is for other parents.

Later I asked the two coaches, Grant Rutherglen for the E2s and Dax van Laer for the E1s, what their goals were. Their goals and hopes were tailored for the varying ages. For Grant, his goal, he stated with a smile, was to have “6 in the top 5 and I don’t mind who ties”. He then went on to talk about different configurations of placement for the individuals in his group…upon further thought podium hopefuls were Kaija and Stephanie in first and second (the order of the two didn’t matter), Rowan first, Isaac and Thomas placing second and third. Whether or not this happened it was all said in good humor and I felt that Grant truly believed in the kids he works with. If they have passion perhaps they are capable of anything. Grant is the kind of coach who invests a lot in the improvement and success of the athletes he coaches.

Dax’s goal for his kids was for them all to have fun and to see them smiling. He stated with conviction that if they are having fun that will carry into the future, enabling them to eliminate any fears and help them become great racers who continue to love what they do. I sensed he sincerely cared what kind of experience the kids had.

The snow had slowed shortly after the race began which helped reduce the amount of goggle wiping. The two runs were done back to back but with over 100 racers it took over an hour to get through the first. Watching the racers was inspiring, not just for the speed and skill that many of them displayed but also for the overall determination each racer clearly had – from the 5 year olds right up to the 12 year olds.

Not all goals were met, some were exceeded, and every racer had reason to be proud of their efforts. The love of racing prevailed and there were many smiles. Rowan Stevens came in first for the 9/10 boys, Stephanie Proctor was second and Kaija Lewis-Belle had her third third place finish of the season for the 9/10 girls. All three of these racers will be moving up to K1 next year so this experience and these successes are important. The younger racers also did very well with Simon Hillis coming in first for the 7/8 boys. Many of Red’s racers also received ribbons for finishing in the top 10.

While Stephanie Proctor fulfilled her goal of having fun and trying her best, she also surpassed her expectations in regards to placing. Kaija, Stephaine, and Rowan described themselves as a simple and meaningful “happy!” when asked how they felt about their results. I would say that all the parents were also very happy and proud.

On the way home I had a chance to ask Kaija and Rowan what the highlight of the day was for each. For Kaija it was falling near the bottom of a run named “Suicide”. (She initially scoffed at a run with such an intimidating name but as she catapulted into the air and disappeared over the knoll she was perhaps thinking she should take it a bit more seriously). Her reasons: “I almost never crash and it was funny since I didn’t realize I had lost equipment until somebody told me.” When pressed for something from the race she hesitated only a moment before she said remembering to tuck early on her second run. For Rowan there was virtually no hesitation when he spoke about a difficult fall away turn. In describing what made this turn a highlight he showed his experience and maturity with his ability to discect, analyze and focus on particular aspects of a course. What made it a highlight was improving from the first run how good he felt about conquering this challenging turn the next time down.

The race was well organized, fun, and made so by all the friendly and dedicated volunteers. Even the long potentially sketchy drive was not a deterrent with strong representation from Red, Whitewater, Salmo, and Summit. It was definitely worth the early morning.

With only one race left in the season, my final thoughts are wisdom taken from A Series of Unfortunate Events (which of course this race was not). “There are times to stay put, and what you want will come to you, and there are times to go out into the world and find such a thing for yourself.” It is my belief that all these racers are doing the later."  ~ thoughtfully written and submitted by Dawn Hertz, Red Mountain Racer volunteer parent at the Summit Lake E2 race, March 1, 2009