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Skiers prepare on Callaghan Gold

Kawano looking for solid campaign in first year with WNDC


Skiers at the Whistler Nordic Development Centre (WNDC) hope Gold begets gold.

The athletes opened their pre-season training on Oct. 28 at Whistler Olympic Park on snow that was carefully stored after the 2016-17 season to be rolled out into a 1.5-kilometre trail as temperatures began to chill leading up to this season.

Athletes had nearly a week on the stored snow before it was mixed with some fresh precipitation, which, according to WNDC head coach Etienne Letondeur, created ideal conditions.

"The old snow made a very solid base — hard-packed — and the fresh snow is very cold and helped to have a softer feeling so the conditions right now are actually perfect," he said.

One of the beneficiaries is local biathlete Kaede Kawano, who appreciated the chance to get out into the Callaghan early in the season, even if the snow wasn't tip-top.

"The first few days were slushy and pretty slow but now that the new snow is on here, it's not bad. It's pretty good," she said. "It's nice that we can get on snow so early."

In the first few days back at the proverbial office, Kawano and nine other WNDC athletes were shaking off the rust of summer and regaining proper form.

"I'm just getting used to being on skis again after training on roller skis for the whole summer," she said during a

Pique visit to the site on Nov. 3. "We've been doing a couple of time trials as a practice race since our first race is coming up in a week. We're using those to see where we can improve."

Kawano's first event is the national team trials, which kicked off in Canmore, Alta. on Nov. 7. She'll be at home for the IBU Cup Trials at Whistler Olympic Park in early January, where she hopes to punch her ticket to the world juniors.

Letondeur explained though new snow came shortly after the early opening, any opportunity to extend the athletes' training window before the races start to count was welcomed.

"We just got fresh snow, but it was very good for us to have a first layer of the old snow that we used from last summer. It was a very helpful tool for us... It is good for the athletes to get back on the snow," he said after a Nov. 3 time trial at Whistler Olympic Park. "We've been training on roller skis all summer, but it's not the exact same feeling, so the earlier we get on snow, the better."

Some athletes were breaking in new equipment, which gave the early opening added importance as they prepared for the campaign.

"We were focused a lot on technique, getting back the feelings on skis and balance," he said, noting he cranked up the intensity shortly after starting in order to get the athletes up to speed as quickly as possible.

The Whistler Nordic Development Centre is trying to get its athletes on as much natural snow as they can. Earlier this summer, athletes skied on Whistler Mountain near the Roundhouse Lodge to maximize their on-snow training. Letondeur said the last day of training up there was July 10, meaning the athletes were only off the white stuff for just over three months.

"Being off-snow is necessary because they need to do other stuff, too. We've been working a lot on strength training for the summer. We notice the difference between the spring and now. The athletes are much stronger and the work we did in the gym is really noticeable now on snow," he said.

The WNDC has grown significantly over the summer, jumping from four athletes to 10. In its first campaign, it has its first major success as Bobby Kreitz attended the Canada Games and the world junior championships.

Current athletes are no older than 20 and are from the Sea to Sky corridor, Vancouver, northern B.C., Alberta and Romania.

The WNDC trained with its 10 athletes during the week, but on the weekends, several more came out to ski on the Callaghan Gold with another 120 to 140 attending over the two days.

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