Broderick Thompson got a taste of the FIS World Cup circuit this season.
The newly turned 21-year-old raced six times on the top alpine skiing loop on the planet, taking a best result of 30th in alpine combined in Wengen, Switzerland in January.
"It was a cool experience racing with the big boys and seeing how they do everything," he said. "The tracks are faster and bigger — bigger jumps, higher speed — so it's really cool. I enjoy it a lot."
He'll have the opportunity to focus on the World Cup chase with greater intensity this season, as he was named to Alpine Canada's 2015-16 roster on May 6. Fellow Whistler Mountain Ski Club (WMSC) member Ford Swette received a provisional invite to the squad, marking his first time on the team, though he received an invitation to train with the squad last season. Veteran Manuel Osborne-Paradis will also be back, as will Morgan Pridy, though Robbie Dixon, who has raced just nine times since suffering his first of two broken legs in late 2012, was absent from the list. Osborne-Paradis won two World Cup silver medals this season while Pridy took part in two World Cup races, making the top 20 in both. He also had five top 10 finishes at FIS races this season.
The other WMSC representative named to the squad was Thompson's older sister, Marielle, the 2014 Winter Olympic gold medallist and two-time Crystal Globe winner in women's ski cross. After a blazing start to the season, winning the first three races, she suffered a knee injury at the World Ski Championships and placed eighth overall in the standings.
Having the team announced this early in the season allows the younger Thompson to adequately get set for the year ahead, knowing he has the confidence of the overarching organization's coaches and managers.
"As I move into the summer and into the year, it's good to feel like you're part of the team," he said. "Having the older guys around to push me was also a really big benefit."
The younger Thompson has raced plenty in Europe in recent years in addition to his steady diet of North American mountains since making his FIS debut in 2009, but familiarity with the location doesn't necessarily amount to a hill of beans with the courses set at a higher level of difficulty. He's willing to put int he work to develop as much knowledge as possible before a race.
"It's all experience, I think, just knowing how to move on the course, the direction you need over rolls," he said. "Skiing's all the same, but you just need the experience and the knowledge of each course.
"From training run to race run, I tried to bring as much preparation (as possible)."
Thompson also hit the Nor-Am Cup podium twice in 2014-15, including picking up his first win at Nakiska on Feb. 19.
He already has his eye on replicating the feat at a higher level when the competitive season rolls around in the fall, recently completing a camp at Sunshine Village with one last kick at downhill before the summer. Thompson expects to increase his World Cup participation in the coming year while also appearing at a solid slate of Nor-Am Cup events to try to bring home the overall title.
"I'll definitely try to excel in the Nor-Am speed (events) and then do similar to what I did this past year with the World Cups, maybe do a couple more than last year, but still focus on both," he explained. "I would like to break into the top 30 in the World Cup."
Swette's status slightly more uncertain
Thompson will be joined on the team by old friend Swette — the two have skied together for about a decade.
Swette received a provisional nomination for the team, which means he'll have significant involvement with the squad but there's a possibility it may not be quite on the same level as other members.
"I'm just waiting around to see if I'll be included with everything to do with the team or just most things to do with the team," he explained from Calgary, where he will train for the summer.
He'll find out on July 1 exactly where he stands, noting being left to twist in the wind a little bit is the result of reduced funding for Alpine Canada. The organization received just over $1.5 million in Own the Podium allocations this year, about $250,000 less than it averaged during the Sochi quadrennial. Collingwood, Ont.'s Morgan Megarry, who was on the team this past season, also received the status on the men's team, as did Quebec skier Laurence St. Germain on the women's team. Though the uncertainty can be a bit frustrating, Swette noted it's a sign of good faith to let the skiers know the situation immediately rather than pulling the rug from beneath them sometime later on.
Like Thompson, Swette made his World Cup debut this season, but did not finish the giant slalom in Abelboden, Switzerland in January. He claimed his first Nor-Am Cup victory in nearly two years at Panorama in December while also taking silver at a FIS race in Kimberley in February.
"It's something you can't mentally prepare yourself for," said Swette of the World Cup level. "To be a part of it was just absolutely surreal. It's really good to get a sense of how the sport works in Europe and how big it is."
Swette felt he made more strides with the mental part of his approach than the physical side of it over the campaign. He said he still has progress to make to fully instill that he has what it takes to be the fastest he can be.
"I set pretty high goals for myself and I didn't reach them," he said. "It was 100 per cent a big mental block. I overcame a lot of it, but it's still something that I'm still going to be working on."