A new season of alpine ski racing is upon us, and there is more "new" than usual in the air for members of the Adanac Ski Club (ASC).
Boasting a steady rise in membership that sees current numbers at more than 90 young skiers on hand, ASC executive find themselves as excited as a toddler at Christmas, anxious to see what the 2019-2020 campaign will bring.
"We have a really good group of people wanting to move the club forward," noted Angele Carriere-Prosperi, tackling the Fundraising/Sponsorship/Communication mandate for ASC. "We've made numerous changes with the club to try and better the experience for all kids, not just the high performance kids."
In fact, since the re-opening of the midtown hill circa 2005, the re-introduced alpine race team has witnessed a stream of ebbs and flows, though generally with an upward trend. "I think people are just noticing what a great winter sport it is, being outdoors, with your family, and being active with them, as opposed to just watching," said Carriere-Prosperi, who did not pick up the sport until her mid-thirties.
"The bulk of our membership are people who just love skiing. They want to develop their skills so that they can ski for life. Most of them do not have the aspiration to become a World Cup skier, they really don't," she added.
"They want to have fun with their friends, and maybe go out of town for a few races."
Club president John Prosperi can relate.
A mainstay with the team in his youth, he recalls an era when the opportunity existed for local talent to go toe to toe with many of the best alpine skiers in the province. With a large number of local coaches involved now, and the addition of new head coach Jeremy Ramshaw to the fold, Prosperi would love to see the Adanac Ski Club return back to the future.
"There was a pure racing program that was developed in the past, and we're trying to bring that back," he explained. "The old Inco Cup circuit is something that we have now with the U14, U16 development programs. It's similar."
"We're collaborating with the other three areas of the province (Southern Ontario/National Capital/Lake Superior Division), trying to bring back the Northern Ontario Division, and working together with a High Performance group."
"We're trying to fill the gap between the former Inco Cup, and the skier with aspirations of making a national team."
While some might suggest that goal is a lofty one for a region that does not benefit from the natural elevation of various other parts of Ontario, let alone the truly mountainous settings that exist in British Columbia or Quebec, it's not like the blueprint has not worked before in these parts.
Sudbury Sports Hall of Famer Ellis Hazen rose to national prominence with his work in the nickel city, creating a ski program that included an alpine, nordic and ski jumping component, and could rival the very best in Canada.
Mind you, we are talking about the 1950's and 1960's.
"The old saying goes that if you can ski Adanac, you can ski anywhere in the world," said Carriere-Prosperi. "It's an ice pitch - and it's a steep hill."
The fact is that even though the majority of young competitive skiers will have the chance to test their skills on much longer runs than Adanac, it's not as though a solid base cannot be built in Sudbury. "You can train slalom very well here at the grass roots level," suggested coach Prosperi.
"It's a great little slalom hill to train on. You have enough gates there to train slalom. GS (giant slalom) training is not great. We had to add out of town training for that."
For the racers themselves, it is understandably difficult to ignore the allure of mountains that tower above the Sudbury hillside. "I've been to Whistler Blackcomb, and that's probably my favourite place to ski," said 12 year old grade seven student Paolo Grossi. "Most of the time at Whistler, it snows a lot, so it's just like powder."
"If you fall a lot, it doesn't really matter."
One of several promising your racers with ASC, Prosperi was busy preparing, over the Christmas break, for the upcoming Technica Cup, a four-day weekend (January 9th-12th) being staged in Sudbury that will welcome athletes from across the north, and hopefully other parts of the province, with the Saturday and Sunday devoted to slalom racing.
And while Grossi acknowledged that the additional powder snow can certainly soften the landing on those runs that might not go quite as well as he would like, there are other hurdles that then must be overcome. "When it's powder snow on the ski course, it's much slower and harder to make your turns," he said.
"I fell on my first run, today, but it didn't affect me that much because I got right back up and kept going." Come race day, Grossi will be focused on the key elements of his technique.
"“I have to get out early on my turns, so that I'm not late and then get into the backseat, and then you fall, because that's what I did," he said. "I'm focused on getting forward."
Racing, to some degree or another, since the age of five, Grossi recalled the early lessons to be learned in settings ranging from Sudbury to Sault Ste Marie, or stops in North Bay, Elliot Lake and Timmins.
"Making your turns in time, learning how to go to your edge, that's pretty difficult some time when you're young. Once you get used to it, it’s easy."
Whether the goals are strictly learning to ski properly, competing in the north, or becoming the next Steve Podborski, the Adanac Ski Club has something for everybody. "We've developed a "light program" for kids who are involved in multiple sports and cannot dedicate the time of our full program, or maybe just want to try it out," said Carriere-Prosperi.
"The fact is that being involved in sports, no matter what the sport is, instills so many qualities and life-long skills in kids: dedication, hard work, camaraderie, being able to listen to direction. That's the priority of our club."