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How I spent my summer vacation

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By Maëlle Ricker

Welcome back to winter everyone. I have been lucky enough to be in the season already for a couple of months. That’s right, the Canadian Snowboard Team is in full swing already and December is just on the doorstep. We have had plenty of adventures already and I would love to start off by giving you the low down.

The halfpipe team jumpstarted their on-snow training in New Zealand in August. They headed to the quaint lakeside town of Wanaka on the South Island. Even though the snow conditions weren’t ideal, the staff at Snow Park put together an amazing halfpipe.

Rumor has it the pipe was of X-Games quality everyday, with X-Games level riding everyday. My teammate Sarah Conrad described it as watching a video game in real life. I heard the nightlife wasn’t too shabby either. Wednesday night karaoke at Shooters Bar was the place to be. If Hugo’s snowboard career doesn’t work out then his career as a lounge singer will.

While the pipe team was getting its groove back in New Zealand, the snowboardcross and alpine teams were banking in snow time on the other side of the Pacific in South America.

The snowboardcross team started off in Argentina at Las Lenas Ski Resort, while the race team put in valuable on-snow time at El Colorado in Chile. Good for us because the South American snow god was much more generous than the New Zealand one this season.

I decided to join the snowboardcross team program and meet up with my fellow halfpipe teammates later for the World Cup in Chile in September. Looking back on my trip to Argentina, I think I made the right decision. We stayed at Las Lenas for about 10 days and got to ride powder for all of them. We also did some snowboardcross training to make sure our skills were tuned up for the first World Cup.

Drew Neilson and I had that one epic day where we just couldn’t stop riding. Every run was better than the last and no amount of hunger or muscle pain could lure us off the slopes. We both had ear-to-ear grins smeared across our faces. At the bottom of every run we’d look at each other and say, "just one more". At 5:30 we finally called it quits, when the chairlifts stopped and the sun went down. It was the perfect way to start a long season full of Olympic stress and excitement.

By mid-September the race team returned home, while the halfpipe team met up with the snowboardcross team in Chile for the season opening World Cup at Valle Nevado. The drive up to the resort was hectic! We left Santiago prepared for a two-hour drive up the 80 switchbacks to the ski hill. After eight hours of stop and go in a brutal snow storm we all finally made it.

The next day was worth the crazy travel. We awoke to blue bird skies with beautiful powder riding and a halfpipe training session to boot.

Low and behold our powder boards were packed up and our contest boards were brought out. The World Cup event had two halfpipe contests, immediately followed by two snowboardcross races. Mercedes Nicoll took home a bronze in the pipe event while I made some progress in the snowboardcross course by claiming two silvers.

October didn’t run as smoothly as August and September. The racers worked on their indoor snowboarding skills at a resort called Landgraff in Holland, then went back to outdoor riding at Soelden in Austria. Both places hosted World Cup events but no Canadians stepped onto the podium at either competition.

The halfpipe and snowboardcross teams didn’t step up either. We were trying out our luck in Saas Fee at our second stop of the season. Apparently the Canadians are cursed in that town because for the second year in a row we missed out on the podium. Dominique Maltais come the closest by placing fourth on the craziest snowboardcross course ever.

The course claimed at least 10 victims and one of them was a fellow Canadian. Derek Winterman ended his winter early by blowing out his knee in the time trial. I would guess that almost half of the field didn’t race because of the course design. If the results didn’t count towards countries’ Olympic qualification criteria, I am sure the race would have been cancelled.

So now it’s November and our National Teams are scrambling to get in last minute training. Our racers are tuning their skills in Colorado while the snowboardcrossers are training in Europe. I’m with the halfpipe team in Mammoth, and we are currently praying for some sort of snow miracle to create a halfpipe to ride.

The bottom line is this – we should all just be in Whistler riding the epic early season powder.

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