Commitment conquers moguls say teen top guns It's gotta be fun to stay good at it By Chris Woodall Dale and Jason Begg-Smith practically eat, sleep and live mogul skiing, to the point where they are the best of Canada's juniors. Dale is 13 and is good enough to have taken 21st spot in the recent senior national competition that saw him up against the likes of Jean-Luc Brassard. Jason is the older of the two at 17 and won the Canadian junior (18 and under) national championship. There's a quiet confidence in the two local skiers when they talk about their abilities and what it takes to be the best. But whatever dedication is needed to put them on a daily grind of training — and trying to balance a full school schedule — there's one theme that is most important: it has to be fun. For skiers who've thrown their whole lives into a sport, it can become more like work and less like something that you want to do for the thrill of it. "I can tell when people don't like skiing anymore," Dale says of competitors he's come across. "You can see the decline in their skills. In skiing, it won't work if you don't like it." Not that enjoying skiing of any kind has ever been a problem. "I'll be ancient and in my wheelchair and I'll still like skiing," Dale says. And while snowboarding is just entering their agenda of slopeside things to do, "The best thing is to be on the snow, even if it's on a snowboard or up seeing all your friends," Dale says. Injuries are one of the tests to see if competition skiing can still be fun. Jason had a cartilage tear in a knee shortly after winning the Canadian junior nationals that prevented him skiing in the B.C. championships. "The doctors are going to look around (the knee) and do a little scraping," Jason says. "I'll be out 2.5 months, but I'm hoping to get on the Blackcomb Glacier for John Smart's ski camp." He has found inspiration to return to form from men’s moguls skier Dominick Gauthier, who ripped his ACL at the World Cup event on Blackcomb Mountain, but came back two weeks later to compete in the Nagano Winter Olympics, just missing the finals. "I'll be back," Jason says. Dale has his problems to overcome, too. He has "peteller tendonitis" in both knees, but with icing and neoprene braces he has still managed to compete, winning pretty much anything he enters. There was pain. Elvis Stojko sized pain. "I was almost crying at the bottom of the run from the pain," Dale says of a recent competition. He didn't specify, but it was probably a competition he won. He has been first in so many competitions for his age level and beyond that Dale became the youngest person to qualify for the senior nationals, one of just four B.C. skiers to be among the top 50 moguls skiers in Canada. Moguls competition is a sport that's come a long way for junior skiers, even in Dale's experience. "It's really technical now," Dale observes. "Three years ago hardly anyone could do a triple move. Now everyone can do them." A triple move is attempting three things in one jump off a mogul. "A couple years ago I could do 360s," Dale says, noting that he's working on some new tricks involving a 360, iron cross and grabs. "But I won't do them in competition. The judges won't score them because they don't know what it is," Dale says. To convince them, Dale will have to get his air time videotaped to proved to judges what he does isn't a fluke. Just because you're good doesn't mean you can't learn, which is why Dale and Jason are keen to do summer camps on the glacier. "You have to be a well-rounded skier, including cliffs, powder, anything," Jason says. "On Blackcomb you can cruise around the mountain and enjoy skiing in general." There are also a core of adult experts to fine tune skills who can pack a lot of knowledge in a short ski camp. "In that one week it's like a half-year of skiing — it's super dense," Dale says. There's a lot of exposure to styles of skiing at these camps — there's something called a U.S. style, a Swedish style, and so on — as well as picking up tips from coaches who are more focused on speed, or technique or air. Dale would like more speed. "My technique is the best of anyone's," he says, but he's still averaging two seconds slower than the best times. But with age — remember he's still only 13 — will come the size and weight needed to propel him downhill quicker. Technique, however, is the place to start. "Air will come and speed will come, but you have to get the technique at the start," Jason says. "Once you have the technique you can work on bits of it, like now I'll move my pinkie finger here a little bit, or move my hip this way a little bit." Off-slope workout comes into play, too. Among other things, there's "the box." Literally that, working the box requires you to jump to the top of it and off it as quickly as you can repeatedly for 90 seconds. Dale can do 85. World Cup-class mogul skiers can do 90. The very best can do 120. "You collapse at the end of it," Dale says of going all out at this exercise. "But it's just like mogul skiing: you totally pace yourself." Being brothers hugely skilled at the same sport has a special plus: they can train together. "We can push each other," Jason says. "It's good to train with someone who can keep up." "If we trained by our selves, we wouldn't see differences in our progress," Dale adds. Keeping up with school is another challenge. Thanks to a special program at Whistler Secondary School, Dale and Jason can do their courses on their own to give them daylight time to train and compete. It hasn't hurt them. Dale is a straight-A student and Jason is a frequent flyer on the honour roll. But they have their eye on 2002, the next Winter Olympics. "I'm doing a lot of accelerating," Dale says of continuing schooling (he's in Grade 7 now) through the summer to cram high school into as few years as possible. Jason will have finished high school by 2002. The idea is that come the year-long runup to the winter Olympics, school books will be put aside. In that year, Dale will be focusing his interests in science on a different kind of metallurgy: the gold medal for moguls.