By Ryan Willman
A blazing snow tempest was waiting for a weary Nakusp Secondary Ski and Snowboard team, who had spent the last eight hours in a bus, traveling from Nakusp to Whistler. We arrived in the resort town north of Vancouver to participate in the BC High School Alpine Provincials; the trip being the climax of a long journey that started back in October and included hours of after school dryland training, fundraising events and weekend practices.
This year 12 skiers and 10 snowboarders, covering an experience spectrum of seasoned veterans to fresh rookies, represented Nakusp Secondary School and Summit Lake Ski hill.
The provincial event was set to take place over the course of three days and hosted more than 270 athletes from 16 B.C. public and private schools. Each racer had the opportunity to tackle two runs through a giant slalom course set along the Grandy Dancer trail on Blackcomb and a single run through the popular terrain cross course.
Students could compete as individuals, or as part of a team consisting of four to six racers. Points were awarded according to individual times, and provincial rankings were calculated by adding a team’s top four racer’s totals.
At the end of the first day, a ragged looking snowboard team shook off the packed snow in their hotel rooms and regaled the skiers with tales of their close shave with disaster. The team had nearly missed their start time because the lift they were in line for was closed due to weather. A last minute decision found the entire team traversing the mountain to another lift, only to make it to the start gate just in time to race. No time for the typical course inspection, the team had no choice but to fly blind down the GS course.
Despite the rocky start, the snowboarders managed to power through 270 metre of vertical decline, past 27 gates and into a fifth place finish for the girls and a three way tie for sixth for the boys. However, due to a mathematical anomaly, the boys and girls snowboard team were sitting pretty at the end of their almost disastrous day in a combined third place.
On day two, the skiers charged through their GS races and managed to battle out a third place for the girls and an eleventh place for the boys.
True to tradition, the NSS skiers were the loudest and most supportive group, who unabashedly cheered each team member as they stood poised in the gate waiting for the gatekeeper to utter the gut-dropping phrase, “racer ready.” Adding the points together, the boys and girls were sitting in fifth place at the end of their first race day, and the team celebrated with a night of well behaved fun in the village.
Wednesday morning found the snowboard and ski teams at the top of the Blackcomb snowcross course staring at the return of the intimidating snow feature that terrorized last years provincial course in Smithers — the Wu Tang. This tricky bit of engineering was situated directly in front of the start gate, forcing our racers to point their tips down a steep decline, which quickly rose into a pinnacle of snow, then fell away again into the gully of the terrain course.
The weather also added to the technical quagmire as our first seeded female racer, Taylor Aeichele, had to navigate the puzzle of the terrain cross in a veritable whiteout.
The racers raced, one by one, each facing their own set of challenges as the inconsistent weather shifted from snowy apocalypse to sun bathed beauty. By mid afternoon, bluebird skies, unseen for the duration of the competition, softened the snowpack and reduced the terrain cross into a marshmallow mess.
The fickle conditions of the day caused some of the racers to lose all racing hope and swagger time eating tricks off of the Wu Tang instead of stressing about gaining seconds through the adverse conditions of the terrain course.
The tournament rounded out with Jamie Godtmark’s 19th place finish helping to settle the girls snowboard team into a final sixth place showing and Colton Petterson’s 22nd overall time leading the boys snowboard team to a combined eighth place finish. When counted together, the points earned by both the girls and boys snowboard teams added up to an impressive third place finish in the province.
On the two planker side of the provincials, the NSS ski team found themselves in some tough, spandex wearing, competition and battled hard to earn a respectful sixth place collective finish. Taylor Aeichele and Angus Jackson were the leading representatives of the NSS team with their 11th and 18th personal finishes.
Team wise, the boys left everything on the mountain and walked away with a 12th place to show for their efforts, and the girls, through collective teamwork and unbridled tenacity eked out a fourth place finish from their pool of zealous competitors.
Next years provincials will be held in our backyard at Revelstoke Mountain Resort.