ASXT Athlete Journal: Reece Ralph

Hey there!

My name is Reece Ralph, and this is my second year on the Alberta Alpine Ski cross team. I hope you enjoy a little behind-the-scenes look at our crazy covid season!

Coming into this year I had no idea what to expect. I knew that this season was going to be different with races getting postponed or moved around the country/calendar and the likelihood of there being a Nor Am series quickly went south. With restrictions changing at what seemed to be a weekly basis, and the option of going to Europe to race in the Europa cup unavailable, my coaches, teammates and I had to make our own training plan for this winter.

Our plan started off strong with a couple weeks of pre-season training at Panorama with an emphasis on going back to the basics. Developing our technical skiing skills and making the most out of the start section they set up for us was key. As then we moved into January, we moved to our next training venue at Pass Powderkeg (PPK) for what was to be our home for the winter.

Our time spent training at PPK was less than ideal. A severe lack of snowfall and other daily challenges made it impossible to plan for more than 1 day in advance. Athletes and coaches were forced to adapt to sometimes negative daily changes with little to no notice. However, our fantastic coaches JM, Kya and Matt rallied and quickly adapted to the conditions of the day to make the most of the situation and provided value every day we were there. These challenges lead to a personal highlight for me. I was fortunate to get the chance to use some of the skills I learned through my college education. I was invited to assist the operations crew by making some models of these new features and assisted in the rebuild with a focus on making the track more challenging and safer.

The cloud of Covid-19 hit close to home in the pre-season. Personally, I have followed the Covid-19 rules mandated by Alberta Alpine and the Alberta Government and have been Covid free.  The 2 weeks my team spent in isolation is difficult for anyone let alone high-level athletes who spend the majority of our time either on snow or in the gym.

After our stint at PPK we decided to shift our focus a little closer to home. The team and I have spent the past couple of weeks at Nakiska where we have been training GS and SL with some excellent snow in a professional training environment. Having Nakiska open to us this season has been hugely beneficial to us. By providing consistently good snow, challenging terrain, and most importantly, they closed down the run to the public so the team’s training could do so safely.  

This season has also given us the rare gift of lots of powder days. Skiing around Castle Mountain with the team and our assistant coach Matt Carss has been an unbelievable experience. Free skiing has added a new dimension to our training. Ski cross and Free skiing have a lot of similarities and transferrable skills. Line choice plays a HUGE part in both disciplines.

When you look at a ski cross track or a line on a mountain, you need to be able to make mental targets that you need to hit in order to make it through the course or down your line safely.

Balance also plays a huge role in landing in both powder and off a jump. Being able to spot my landing and get my body at the perfect angle to match the transition can make or break my race. To be able to put my skiing into auto pilot and make my way through traffic on the track is an integral part of ski cross.

In the weeks ahead, the team and I are shifting our focus once again. We are now full speed ahead preparing for our end of season Spring Camp at Sunshine with Canada Ski Cross. I am excited to get back on snow with the National team and get back to racing 4 wide and full tilt. I feel like this season of training GS and Slalom has given me time to catch up with my technical skiing and has helped close the speed gap with some of my teammates.

I have been very fortunate to be able to pursue my dreams in these crazy times. I am looking forward to some bluebird sunny days in the next couple of weeks as we prepare for Spring Camp.

Thank you to all of our team sponsors for helping us make this season the best it can be and to my personal sponsors for fuelling my dream.

Ski Safe,
Reece Ralph