“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein

Yes, Al, you got that right. 

BC ski team speedster Gerrit Van Soest and BC team assistant coach Montana Molyneux both had the opportunity to take that motto to learn and grow from six days spent with the Canadian national ski team in Lake Louise during the men’s World Cup downhill and super-G week.

Van Soest, 20, in his third season with the provincial team, received an invite to forerun the men’s events, creating a unique opportunity to work directly with the team and coaches. Coach Monty was also invited to join Van Soest.

“There are so many little things in downhill that you never really learn about until you get the perspective of the people who have raced the track,” Van Soest said energetically.

From witnessing the Austrian team skiers inspecting the course at high speed on the race track during inspection – “is this even allowed?” he asked with a laugh – to watching video analysis with the team coaches, or the individual approach of each skier, Van Soest was vigorously processing all the information he had absorbed over the few days with the team. 

Learn, study, adapt. Repeat

Van Soest commented about a conversation with long-time Canadian men’s speed coach Serge Dugas, at Tickety Chute, a section on the upper course.

“It was crazy, there was so much information about the terrain there … I was trying to absorb it all and I’m still thinking about it now,” he said from Lake Louise after the men’s super-G cancellation.

Van Soest also singled out a video session with another national team coach, as a stand out learning experience. The coach spent considerable time with him analyzing one turn in great detail. “Chris [Powers] was running me through that first turn and he showed me where I was on and off my edge like three or four times … and every time I do that I’m losing a tenth of a second or more, so it really adds up.”

Photos by John Evely. johnevelyphoto.ca

“You have to be moving over every little bit of terrain so that your edge angle doesn’t change at all and your edge pressure doesn’t fluctuate,” he explained. “When you see the top guys you don’t even see the terrain because their legs move so subtly.”

Bumping shoulders with the sports elite was invaluable for the Vernon Ski Club alumnus, who has seven FIS podiums to his credit.

“I realized they aren’t “gods” and it sort of brought them down to a more observable perspective,” he said. “They’re just guys and they’re better at it and they’re super calm and tactful.”

Adding to the Coaching Toolkit

For Molyneux, in her first season coaching with the provincial team, having the fly-on-the-wall experience helped her see the finer points of prepping skiers at the highest level of the sport.

“The big one for me was inspecting with Geritt, we’d stop at each of the coaches to get feedback. He’s getting all the information that he needs from the Canadian coaches and I’m able to talk through with him what he just heard.”

With multiple course inspections over the week, the information volume was high. “I’d never been on a big boy downhill track and so the information that I was getting was endless,” she said. 

For Coach Monty, seeing the off-the-hill approach from the coaches was equally as valuable.

“You walk in to the video session and they have all the data there, the interval timing sheets, the GPS with speed on every turn and data on different guys from the Canadian team … and then you have the video,” she explained.

You see what happens on the hill but there’s so much more that happens off the hill especially on the training days. 

For take home lessons learned, Monty commented that her coaching toolkit was expanded.

“The speed side was an area I wanted to work on,” she said, regarding her season coaching goals. “I hadn’t had the experience and wanted to be able to coach the guys more confidently on the speed side. Now I can go into the NorAms with more confidence with this week of experience so it helped my progression as a coach a lot.”

The women’s Winterstart Lake Louise World Cup kicked off on Tuesday this week, with the downhill races scheduled for Friday and Saturday and super-G on Sunday. Gerrit Van Soest’s sister Katrina, will be competing the super-G.