'The coach-athlete relationship is a fickle beast. It can be rewarding, difficult, pure magic or completely toxic. Usually it's a combination of all of these things at one time or another but if absolute trust and respect are established, and the athlete buys in, magic things can happen. '
- Kristina Groves. In Praise of Tough Coaches
There are few institutions in this valley as venerable as the Whistler Mountain Ski Club. And even fewer who have contributed so much to the community's overall identity. Think about it. What would Whistler be without Dave Murray and Rob Boyd and the Janyk kids and Manny and Davey Barr and Julia and Ashleigh and...
But it's not just on the race hill that its members shine. WMSC alumni have infiltrated every level of Whistler society. They're your neighbours and friends — artisans and magazine publishers; administrators and real estate agents. They run restaurants and manage hotels, teach and nurse and coach your kids. They're everywhere. And best of all, most still love to ski!
But seriously — could Whistler have hosted the Olympics without the WMSC's international renown? Without its respected officials and legendary events? Would the FIS have ever agreed to sanction international races here without the club's reputation for getting things done when the going got rough? Hmm.
I know. I know. Ski racing has taken a beating in the last few years. For many West Coast kids — and their parents — the sport has become irrelevant. Old School. It's seen as too elitist. Expensive. Stuck in the past. And dominated, alas, by the square-headed thinking of central Europe. In short, it's no longer on their radar.
And that's a shame. Because you could do way worse than getting involved with the Whistler Mountain Ski Club. I mean, the venerable old beast is virtually buzzing with positive energy these days. A stellar team of coaches and administrators. An outstanding group of parent volunteers. And a growing gaggle of happy, outgoing young athletes. What more do you need from a local sports club?
But wait. There is more. My spies tell me that there's a heightened sense of community at the club these days. A stronger bond between its members. A greater sense of purpose if you will. Obviously, there's more going on here than just ski racing.
It all comes down to leadership. And vision. And respect. And right now, the WMSC has it all in their 43-year old program director. You see, after three years at the helm, Nigel Loring's quiet, lead-by-example approach has made believers of pretty much everyone who has worked with him.
How's that for an intro? How's that for putting a guy on the spot? And it couldn't have happened to a more modest man...