With the beginning of a new Paralympic cycle I decided to take a new approach to my training. Something I felt I was missing was opportunities to train, on a consistent base, with athletes my age or ability. Being competitive by nature I know that in order for me to get better I need people around to fuel my need for competition. Training for the past few years on my own for the majority of the hours has taught me a great deal. I have become an experience athlete in that respect but I am now missing aspects of training with others. I strongly believe that for an athlete to get better they need to be pressured from behind them. They almost need to be afraid of those behind them in order to push themselves further forward. With also applies to athletes that right there with them. With this reevaluation of my training I decided to join and train with Rocky Mountain Racers Ski Club.
With a handful of athletes my age and reputation of working extremely hard and achieving success this was a natural and logic choice for me. Over the past four weeks the choice has proven to have been the right one. Taking advantage of a hidden gem, the club has been able to ski for the past four weeks in paradise. I can safely say that my list of top-5 all-time most memorable skis have happened in the past four weeks up in the meadow behind Sunshine Village. With three of those days being so incredibly amazing that you think to yourself ‘if I were to die tomorrow I would die a happy man!’ That was how great they were.
I will try to explain in words how one of those days felt, but it would be like describing Everest as ‘oh yeah, that peddle over there.’ The drive to the parking lot is already picture perfect. Driving from Canmore into the Banff National Park with its snow-capped mountains, and bright green forests, followed by an encounter with a Grizzly bear on the shoulder of the Sunshine road. As we slowed down it just kept on its way, slumbering along without even a sideward glance at us. Next up were the sheep, they seemed to be a guarantee on the road in and were not bothered by us driving by them either. Once at the parking lot it was a short hike to edge of the meadow and the beginning of the incredible experience. Hiking up, on this particular morning, the sky was bright blue, and only blue, there was not a cloud in the sky. The horizon was made up of majestic mountains and blue sky! We started taking bets on whom or when the first cloud would be spotted. Nobody won, because no cloud did ever show while we skied. Then the skiing! It can only be put as simply as – EPIC crust skiing. You could go anywhere you wanted; you could find any sort of terrain you wanted; you could do anything! The tracks from tele-turns were visible on every downhill. We were making our way down tree infested hills with only a few spectacular wipe-outs, and few more close calls. It was so nice out many were skiing in only tights, no shirts. There were a few very nice sunglass tans.
Skiing is not the only thing that we are having fun with. My first two weeks with the team we had a precision shooting camp with shooting extraordinaire Pierre Pepin. We shot a lot during that camp but it was making huge improvements in everyone’s performance. I believe my count was close to 1800 rounds in 15 days. At the same time it didn’t feel like that many rounds, we were learning so much and could see the improvement almost overnight. The challenge now is to maintain and continue to improve on our shooting.
The motto, ‘if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes,’ is so true for Canmore. No kidding, from down pour to sunny in less than five minutes, oh and then it can do both at the same time too, that’s a Canmore special. Unfortunately over the past few weeks the part about the sun seemed a little rare. It was kind of miserable and cold (around 10-13) and then just overnight it cleared and gave us two days over bright sun, blue sky and temperatures near 27. That’s the mountain weather for you. I hope that with the official start of summer this weekend that the weather gets the message and provides summer-like conditions.
The training season is well under way and it is shaping up to be a great year. I better get outside and continue playing in the best playground in the World. Speaking of World, for those who are struggling to pick a color to wear for the World Cup, may I suggest orange! Hup Holland Hup!*
* (translation= Go Holland Go)