February 24, 2016

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The Alberta Alpine Legends Club U16 European project recently returned from competing in the 41st annual Pokal Loka International Children’s race in Slovenia, Feb. 8-15, 2016. In total, 6 athletes (3 girls and 3 boys) representing 5 different Alberta clubs traveled across the pond with coaches Andrew Sartisson from the Lake Louise Ski Club and Sue Schwartz, Alberta Alpine Athletics Manager.  The ceremonies and accommodation for the athletes took place in Skofja Loka, Slovenia, a town that is 1043 years old, in the center of Slovenia. There had been very little snow in most of Europe this year to date, and while there was a huge storm the day before the races, the local venue was unable to host the intended events. This year, the 2 SL races were held in the town and ski hill of Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, a 40 minute drive north from Skofja Loka. It was exciting to be freeskiing at Kranjska Gora, and see slopes where the World Cup Men’s GS/SL tour makes its stop on March 4-6, 2016.

pokal loka team 2016

Team 2016 (L to R): James Small, Claire Timmermann, Tora Hoshizaki, Andrew Sartisson (coach ), Avery Lebsack, Thomas Sangwine and Taylor Dods.

Highlights of the trip included skiing at different resorts with many different amenities than what Alberta racers are used to in North America as well as lodging and food that was different but exciting. All the athletes were open to trying everything from single seat chairlifts to liverwurst in a tube. Travel in Europe is fast, as the small group experienced road travel on the Autobahn but other aspects were much slower paced and all the athletes adapted nicely. Roosters crowing and church bells as a morning wakeup call was a refreshing change. Ski boots were put on in the parking lot and the team headed up the lifts much quicker in Europe than they’d typically do at home. This too was a welcomed experience by all. Lift line scrums were something to get used to, but all managed to get their way to the front just as well as the Austrian and Norwegian teams did. Lots of Alpine Canada pins were handed out and new friendships were easily made.

Race day finally arrived after several free ski days and the first run of the first morning was definitely where the nerves were the strongest. The team had all the girls finish on Day 1, with 1/3 of the boys making it down by the days’ end. Lessons reviewed that evening summarized the day as one that was eye opening, nerve wracking but with success as the athletes all felt they had a chance to push much harder and were now comfortable racing with their European U16 counterparts. As Tora said to her coach at the top of the hill after run 1, “they look like us, they ski like us, we are like them – it’s no different”. This is one of the realities of ski racing anywhere in the world, it’s still a ski race no matter where you are. It’s still a start gate, a finish line, a bib and the starter said “ready, go” in English no less! Needless to say, day 2 had progress, although the weather turned nasty, the athletes persevered and while first run times were 2-3 seconds back of first place, by the 2nd run this had narrowed to 1 second.

This type of project is so important in the growth and development of an athlete and person.  We truly appreciate the generous support from Legends Club members and Fidelity Investments in supporting projects that enable travel and racing in Europe. The brief view into a racing world that we seldom see in person, is vital in the development of an athlete’s ability to adapt, recognize new opportunities beyond their own province and to expand their perspective that there are hundreds and hundreds of European ski racers that train, prepare and race just like we do here in Alberta and Canada. It levels the playing field for the next time our Alberta skiers get to race in Europe.

Alberta Alpine is very grateful to the coaches and proud of the efforts the athletes made with this unique opportunity to travel and race in Europe during the winter season. It was truly an outstanding trip.

RACE RESULTS – http://live.sk-alpetour.si/

Athlete Blogs and Photos: Alberta Alpine Facebook

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