Sunday, December 28, 2014

'Tis the Season

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year and all that good stuff! I am happily relaxing at my parents house after a busy month of racing. I have eaten my fill of turkey, ham, cranberry sauce, and pie, and had a lovely time catching up with my family and friends.

I had a few great ski days at Larch Hills, here's our family out for Boxing Day:

My mom is a talented artist and gave Chris and I paintings of Utah for Christmas:

Our snowman had a rough night:

Now a brief recap of my last month:

I kicked off the race season in West Yellowstone, Montana for the SuperTour opening weekend. I started well with a win in the skate sprint, just sneaking by teammate Heidi in a tight finish.

Sprint final. Photo: Karath

Sprint podium. Photo: Annie Pokorny
The following weekend was in Bozeman where I had a solid sprint day until the final when I ran out of steam in the slush and finished 5th. Both distance races in the U.S. were tough for me. I find it takes me a few weekends of racing to get my distance legs back and be strong in back-to-back races on a given weekend.

Bozeman sprint heats. Photo: Marie-Eve Bilodeau-Corriveau
As I hoped, my distance racing finally came around in time for our NorAm opener in Rossland. The organizers did an incredible job putting on the races with very limited snow and we ended up with 2 distance classic races. I felt really good and was able to win both days!

The final weekend was at Sovereign. Again it started with a classic sprint. I didn't have the best tactics in the final but still came out with a silver medal. It was so nice to have my parents, aunts and uncles out volunteering, and Chris helping the Academy wax. I think I had the biggest cheering squad out there! The final race was a 15km individual start skate race in a snowstorm. Not my favourite format but I managed to just hang onto the top 5. 

4 of the top 5 women in the Buff NorAm sprint were sponsored by Buff!

Starting the skate race:
Photo: Eleanor Marshall
I finished the month as the sprint and overall NorAm leader. If I can hang onto those titles I should be able to get over to Europe later in the season.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

CCC Canadian Excellence Fund: The Story

You may have seen the new fundraising campaign on the CCC website: The Canadian Excellence Fund. This is something I have been working hard on with CCC for a few months and that I am really passionate about it. Here is the story:

For years, the biggest issue at our annual NST athlete meeting has been the lack of European race opportunities, particularly World Cup starts, for developing athletes. This has resulted in no new additions to the World Cup Team since 2011 and this year there are no women on our World Cup Team.

As National Team athlete reps, Jess and I pushed the High Performance Committee to create more opportunities for our next generation of World Cup skiers. Cross country skiing is a European sport so to get the experience to get to the next level we need to race in Europe! Jumping onto the World Cup and having immediate success is rare and most of us require a period of time to become comfortable and gain confidence before we start getting those breakthrough results. Finally, this year more opportunities have been created and more World Cup quota spots will be filled with developing skiers!

But... here is the bad news: there is no additional funding for these trips. Now we find ourselves in the situation where the opportunities are there but a development athlete that has a successful season could easily pay over $10,000 in trip fees. This is on top of normal training centre/club fees (at least $10,000), living expenses and other costs. Most skiers have expenses that exceed $30,000/year. Those of us lucky enough to get National carding have an income of $18,000/year plus whatever additional income we make from generous sponsors. Some athletes are doing better than others with varied provincial funding but none of us are making money and most of us are still relying on family and personal supporters to cover our deficit. Add an extra $10,000 in fees and we're getting into dangerous territory. We may be able to get away with this model for 1-2 years but we're going to burn out our athletes and become a sport that is only for the wealthy.

Individual fundraising is an option but I have seen the behind-the-scenes setup of crowd-sourcing campaigns and it is not an easy task. It takes courage and vulnerability to put your finances and struggles on display for the world to see. It can also be time-consuming and stressful to create and manage a campaign. I don't want to see all our skiers resorting to crowd-funding websites to cover their costs.

The Canadian cross country ski community is so incredible: the volunteers that set up our race courses at 5am, the clubs that happily host annual races, the love that every single athlete has for their home club, and the excitement of the crowds watching World Cups in Canada.

Larch Hills: my favorite ski community!
My vision is to harness the awesomeness and generosity of the Canadian ski community to help raise up our next generation of World Cup skiers. Our goal for the fund is to raise a minimum of $60,000, which should hopefully cover 50% of each athlete's trip fees (though it is hard to predict the exact cost at this time). The power of crowd-funding is that even a small donation given by enough people will add up to make a significant difference. This sport will become so much more sustainable if we can split this load amongst the ski community instead of placing the burden on 10-15 individual athletes.

While I hope to qualify for some trips and benefit from the fund, that is not my main drive for promoting it. I don't want cross country skiing to become a sport that is only possible for the wealthy. I want all young skiers to look at cross country skiing and be excited to be part of a strong community that supports and nurtures its talent. I want them to believe that it is possible to become a World Cup skier. I want a strong female World Cup Team! I want our promising skiers to learn from the experienced members of our World Cup team. I truly believe that we have future World Cup medalists in our development stream and we need to support them before they get disheartened and choose to move on from skiing.

I am so grateful to CCC for believing in this concept and providing the structure and reach to ensure success. Please, please donate if you can and spread the word throughout the ski community! Let's build our World Cup team of tomorrow together!

2009 B-Tour trip in Italy. I count 7 Olympians and 1 World Cup medalist, and almost everyone has scored World Cup points!