Local Nordic skier Benita Peiffer has gone to Germany for the season to boost her skills.
The U16 competitor is living with family and going to school in Kirchzarten while training and competing with the local ski club in town, located just outside of Freiburg in southwest Germany.
To date, her best result was a first-place showing in her age group at the Black Forest Championships in the six-kilometre freeskate event. She later placed fifth in her age group in the five-kilometre freeskate mass start event at the German National Championships.
Reached by email, Peiffer explained she's in tough over in Europe, but the challenge has made her want to work harder as even in training, she will measure herself against her talented teammates.
"The competition over here is definitely harder than back home. There are a lot more girls my age participating and they are all very good. While I have been racing I have realized how much more I want to train to become better, and hopefully I can come back here one day and race again," she said. "There are a lot more girls and boys in the club that I am training with and they are all better than me which helps me push myself harder. The training isn't necessarily harder here — I just seem to push myself more because I have more competition during training."
Aside from the terrain, which can at times be hillier, and the conditions, which can be windier, the main adjustments Peiffer has had to make comes down to strategy, as the girls she races tend to be more aggressive. At the German nationals, she tagged along with fellow Canadian Molly Miller, who finished fourth, to traverse the mass of humanity on the course.
"In the mass start, I raced with another Canadian girl and she really helped me push myself. I tried to stick with her during that race and as we both started very last it was very helpful to have her as a rabbit to chase. She was very good at working around the other girls so I followed behind her until we were at the front," Peiffer noted. "Sometimes on the downhills when we were still all together I would get pushed or my skis and poles would get constantly stepped on, but that's all part of a mass start."
Peiffer explained she prefers skate to classic as she enjoys the gliding movement, speed and stability she feels with the technique.
In her victory at the Black Forest race, Peiffer said everything seemed to come together all at once as her skis were fast and the conditions were perfect. As well, she got a nice, big hunk of hardware to haul back to Canada.
"That was probably one of my favourite races that I raced," she recalled. "It felt good to go home with a trophy because we don't get trophies in Canada! It will be a good memory to take home."
Peiffer added she's taken up biathlon as well, as she's focused on adding shooting to her repertoire after only doing it occasionally beforehand.
"I have a lot of fun doing that so maybe one day I will start doing biathlon more competitively, but for now I am going to continue doing both until I have to make a decision," she said.
Peiffer has one final German Junior Cup race on Feb. 20 and 21 before she returns home to Whistler at month's end.