In 2014-15, Manny Osborne-Paradis started strong and finished strong.
The 32-year-old Whistler Mountain Ski Club (WMSC) alumnus took a second-place FIS World Cup showing in his first downhill race of the year in Lake Louise, Alta. and was again the runner-up in the downhill at the second-last venue in Kvitfjell, Norway. In between, more races than not were struggles as he was challenged to complete two runs.
This year, Osborne-Paradis has finished all but one race, though he hasn't put up the results he might have liked. He only recently put up his first top-10 finish of the year in Chamonix, France, taking seventh in the downhill on Feb. 20.
"It's been a long, trying season so it was just nice and refreshing to be up where I think I should be in the races," he said. "I showed I still have it. It's more of a relief than anything."
The French mountain is one that agrees with Osborne-Paradis, as he previously took a fifth in the downhill there in 2008 and has never finished out of the top 15 in any of the four downhill races he has completed there.
"It's a course that I like. It's pretty flat. It's glidey and I'm a pretty good glider," he said. "We knew going into that race, even if I was having some struggles, it would still be a good result."
Osborne-Paradis has hope he'll still be able to find himself with some hardware with just two stops left on the World Cup circuit this year. This Saturday, March 12, he'll be in Kvitfjell looking to make it two podiums in two years with the hopes of parlaying it into a spot at the finals in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
"The goal is always a top-10. Kvitfjell, I had a second last year, so I'm definitely looking for good things. If I want to go to finals, I'd probably need a top five or six in this next race so we're pushing hard to make that happen so I get another race series in for the year," he said. "If the conditions are right, then it's not out of the question to be top five."
A skier will only be as effective as his skis, and Osborne-Paradis took longer than he'd hoped to find the right permutation of all the different possibilities this season.
"I've switched boots, switched skis and everything, and I've never really found anything I felt super comfortable with. I just go two steps forward, two steps back, one step farther back, one step forward," he said. "You think you're working on the right direction in the summer and then by the time you hit the winter, you realize you just totally have not been."
Fortunately for Osborne-Paradis, he has slowly but surely started to find his best fit, though acknowledging it was more of an "uphill battle" than he'd have liked. The hope is the challenges he faced this year will be lessened in 2016-17.
"I have slowly started to feel more comfortable. Obviously, we're getting closer to the end, but at least it's building toward what we're trying to do next year," he said. "We're always learning. it worked out in Chamonix and hopefully at the next downhill, it gets even better."
Though he's not ready to pack it in quite yet, Osborne-Paradis will pass the baton to a new Whistler-raised contingent of skiers led by Broderick Thompson down the road. Thompson has taken part in 11 races this season, posting a best finish of 27th in the Alpine combined at Chamonix.
"He's got a lot of talent so it'll be really cool to see how he progresses," Osborne-Paradis said of Thompson. "We've got a good B.C. contingent."