February 22, 2019

The Linda Putnam Invitational race is a memorial event commemorating the life of Linda, an avid skier and an enthusiastic member of Team Panorama whose contributions to the club, through her volunteering on and off-hill, were highly valued. 

Linda, her husband Todd Gardiner with Hugh and Helen Hincks were off to St Anton, Austria for what was suppose to be a celebratory ski holiday with close friends and business colleagues.  On that January day in 2005, they were caught in an avalanche that tragically killed Linda, Hugh and Helen Hincks. 

Linda, Helen and Hugh’s love for skiing and their bond to the ski community continue to shine through Todd and sons, Jack and Mitch Gardiner who raced with Team Panorama.  Through Morgan Hincks, daughter of Hugh and Helen, who, with her husband Paul Boscovich, has bestowed their passion for skiing and alpine ski racing to her three young children who now race with Team Panorama.  Morgan is an Alumni of the Alberta Ski Team and is Team Panorama’s amazing Social Coordinator instrumental in the organizing of the Linda Putnam Invitational.  Yes, the ski racing values and traditions run deep and continue amongst these families with their children, as does the strength of our Ski Community.

A pivotal person in the creation of the Linda Putnam Invitational concept was Mark Sharp.  A friend, a coach and the creator of the race format from his knowledge and position as the development director for ACA and author of the Aim to Win book at the time. Mark was also working on changing the way kids ski race in Canada. For the most part kids were in adult forms of racing with one run in the morning and one run in the afternoon and having 200 kids standing around waiting for these one off runs was the driving force behind the creation of “The Putty” formula.

Mark knew as soon as you leave your driveway to go to a race you are spending money and with the geography of our regions you have to travel if you want to have a provincial style race series.. There was no getting around the costs of the sport so the only thing to improve was the value for money being spent. For Mark this meant having more runs.

The goal became to give the kids as many race runs as possible and to do this the dual format with timing on each course enabled the kids to have 8 separate timed runs in a revolving dual style environment. The race has a dual panel upper course and a dual Kombi style course on the lower part of the hill. Racing on slalom skis athletically the kids were exposed to Glalom sized turns forcing a disciplined upper body and rhythm with the Kombi style course on the bottom satisfying the variability and adaptability elements.

When the kids finish the top course they ski over to the start of the lower and go again with very little wait time as with a structured setting.

By the time kids take 4 laps on the mile one quad they have had 8 starts dualling with a partner and being timed. The dual format was simply to enable 240 kids to feel the sensation of pure racing and the timing of the run calculated the rankings for the day.

This creates a super charged high energy environment. The race is normally all packed up by 1pm and there are 200 plus very tired kids all gathering for the noisy high octane medals and ribbons ceremony about half an hour later.

The idea was to allow the kids to get about 4 weekends of old style races in one day of racing on the Saturday. Saturday night is for the parents to gather at the gala and Sunday was put aside for the families to go free skiing together which barely ever happens at an away race weekend.

Mark always says that the true magicians making this such a huge success were the original Team Pano timing crew. A bunch of smart parents who seemingly made the impossible happen. Over 1600 timed runs in about 4 hours. Four separately timed race courses all at the same time.

It was hoped that “The Putty” would become the model for other ski clubs who ran kids races.

A sense of play and energy is what keeps kids interested and the less they have to stand around and the more they learn to charge out of the gate we will hopefully keep more of them interested in pursuing ski racing.

The Putty is into its second decade now and all that race in it, never forget it.  Similarly, we will never forget Linda, Hugh and Helen and the legacy that they leave behind in our ski club, their family and our ski community.

This year’s Linda Putnam Memorial Race takes place Saturday, March 9th at Panorama Mountain Resort. Check out the calendar event HERE for more info. 

VIDEO: Linda Putnam 2017 from Jaimie Szarko

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