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Friday, May. 24, 2019
Adanac Ski Club surging forward
by Randy Pascal

It was a dozen years ago, this past December, that the Adanac Ski Hill was re-opened following a few seasons of remaining silent and stagnant. The efforts, at that time, were driven largely by a recreational component of ski and alpine sport enthusiasts, with Adanac Ski Patrol, the Adanac Citizens’ Committee and Friends of Adanac among those leading the charge.

Sure, if things went well, it was inevitable that the momentum would also mount on the more competitive side of the sport. Few, however, likely envisioned it happening quite this quickly.

“When the hill re-opened, there was a really keen, very involved group of parents that re-started the Adanac Ski Club,” noted current club vice-president Joel Montgomery. “It was really small, maybe 20 to 30 kids. Those parents remembered having done it (alpine racing) as kids and wanted to bring that same experience back for their own kids.”

Fast forward to January of 2018 and the signs of growth are difficult to miss. Nearly ninety young racers will don the colours of the ASC this winter, competing either across the north, as part of the NOD circuit, or further to the south in the more advanced Ontario Cup events.

After spending the past three years working diligently as a club coach, Montgomery is thrilled to see the influx of new, young teaching talent ready to step into his shoes, allowing the 42 year old father of two to focus moreso on his administrative duties with the group. “I’m filling in as a coach, when needed,” he said.

Like so many others that remain involved, Montgomery harkens back to countless wonderful memories from his youth. “Back in the day, it was called Nancy Greene racing,” he recalled. “In those days, the racing circuit was Capreol, Lively, Levack, Adanac – you would race all of the local hills.”

“I did that for a number of years, left it for a while and did a lot of recreational skiing through high school and university. I came back to it, now that I have two young boys. I got out with them, got some new skis and am having a really good time.”

The enjoyment would lead Montgomery to offer his services, amassing the accreditation needed to guide newcomers through their early stages with the sport. “Coaching is a mix of a lot of different things,” he acknowledged. “It’s half parent, especially with the younger kids. Managing that group is half the battle. If you can do that well, keep them on the hill, keep them skiing, then you’re off to a great start.”

And while many an adult can recollect having been exposed to at least one basic ski lesson in his or her life, the experience is substantially different when one is talking about racing. “There is a lot more emphasis on technique, even just between racing and instructing,” stated Montgomery.

“You have to make sure you are on the ball so that you’re demonstrating the right skills for the racers. Recreational skiing is fun, but when you’ve got a bunch of kids watching you and you’re training them, there’s a real enjoyment out of being able to grow the younger kids.”

Serving as a member of the board for the first time this year, Elizabeth Taillefer has seen first-hand the effects that good coaching can have on a young athlete. “In the year that my daughter (Ada – age seven) has skied, it’s been absolutely amazing to see the difference,” said the new Events and Marketing co-ordinator.

“When she first started, she could hardly keep up, she could barely ski. Now she’s coming around those gates and really enjoying it. All she can talk about on the ride home from the hill is when she gets to ski again.”

In that sense, Montgomery is extremely thankful for the sudden explosion of interest in the coaching ranks. “We’ve got a healthy mix,” he said. “About half of our coaches are former racers, younger coaches in their twenties, and the other half are parents, pretty capable skiers who get qualified in the basics.”

“Our strategy with our groups is that we like to pair up one of the younger former racers, who is really good with technique and can demonstrate skills well, with one of the parents who can help manage the group, help control the class environment.”

“We had six to eight coaches five years ago – now we’re at more than twenty.” In fact, the progress in this area is a function of both higher quantity and quality. “What’s exciting this year is that we’ve had four of our coaches newly acquire their “Development Level” status,” added ASC past-president and lead coach Cameron Crawford, who works very closely with the only High Performance coach in this area, Dave Hunt.

“It’s a seven full day coaching course that you take. Having these four new Development coaches to add to the two we already have goes a long way to being able to raise the level of all of the kids in our program,” stated Crawford.

Capping off this wave of positivity is some encouraging news in terms of the venue itself, with the City opting to increase their investment in line with the success that Adanac Ski Hill has enjoyed in recent years.

“The new quad lift is in at Adanac,” said Montgomery. “The new chair lift will now move 50 people in the time it used to take to move 20 people. We have way more capacity getting people up the hill, getting more runs in for the skiers. It’s been a huge advantage.”

The group will officially open their competitive race schedule on the weekend of January 19th to the 21st, with a handful of the athletes heading to Mattawa, taking to the slopes with competitors from across Northern Ontario.

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