Whistler Mountain Ski Club athletes helped mark the inaugural BC Alpine open series race at the Teck Open at Sun Peaks Resort earlier this month.
As a team, the WMSC finished first with 93.06 points.
U16 head coach Jeff MacLennan said the very strong early season showing — with more than 10 points distance between them and second-place Grouse Mountain — reaffirmed that the team is doing things just how it should.
"For us, it's just a confirmation we are going in the right direction. It's a confirmation that our programming and our planning and our periodization is strong and it definitely shows, to us, that we can now continue to keep moving forward with some confidence as well as some gusto," MacLennan said.
WMSC skiers excelled in several divisions at the competition, which was held Dec. 12 to 14, with several Top 10 overall finishers.
In the ladies' giant slalom on Dec. 12, Ella Renzoni emerged victorious with a winning time of one minute, 01.87 seconds, exactly a full second better than second-place finisher Kristina Natalenko of Grouse Mountain Tyee Ski Club. The race was cut to one run from two because of snow conditions. Katie Fleckenstein also hit the podium, finishing third.
"I felt like it was a pretty tight course compared to other ones that we usually are skiing," Renzoni said. "I felt like I could maximize my control of the skis and allow myself to make the right turns."
In the Dec. 13 ladies' slalom, three WMSC athletes were in the top five. Gabrielle Smith (first in U18) was second with a time of 1:55.72, just 0.15 seconds behind winner Frances MacDonald of Grouse Mountain. Fleckenstein was fourth and Renzoni was fifth.
In the ladies' slalom on Dec. 14, two Whistler Mountain Ski Club athletes finished in the Top 10, as Fleckenstein took second with a 1:58.50, just 0.12 seconds off Grouse Mountain Tyee Ski Club's Natalenko's winning pace. Meanwhile, Renzoni was fourth with a time of 2:03.12.
When reflecting on her weekend as a whole, Renzoni acknowledged she was taking a confident but cautious approach to the year, but with the impressive showing, feels like she has a better idea of what she can accomplish.
"After the first race, I can see that I'm going to have a pretty good season," the West Vancouver resident said. "I know I can do it again and win a race."
In the men's giant slalom on Dec. 12, Kyle Alexander (first in U16) hit the podium, taking third with a showing of 57.63 seconds, finishing 2.81 seconds behind winner Kevin Drury of Toronto, a former University of Vermont competitor. WMSC dominated the rest of the Top 10 with Max Kirshenblatt (first in U18) in fourth, Kole Harle and Mahashi Tsutsumi tying for fifth, Griffin Renzoni in seventh, Kasper Woolley in eighth and Asher Jordan in 10th.
In the slalom competition the next day, Kirshenblatt (first in U18) notched silver with a 1:43.44, finishing 3.91 seconds behind Drury. Harle and Taiga Tomii tied for third, Woolley (first in U16) was fifth, Tsutsumi 7th and Renzoni 10th.
Kirshenblatt (first in U18) again took silver in the men's slalom on Dec. 14, posting a 1:41.19, which was 3.72 seconds behind winner Drury. Alexander and Tomii also placed in the Top 10, finishing eighth and ninth, respectively.
Complete results are available at www.bcalpine.com.
MacLennan noted successful skiers including Renzoni, Fleckenstein and Alexander went to Chile and Colorado to train this summer.
"It started in the offseason," MacLennan said. "The kids that shined over in Sun Peaks in our first big event, they took advantage of the offseason and really put some time and dedication into their fitness and conditioning as well as being on snow for the many on-snow camps we had.
"They got an awful lot of volume with technical freeskiing and just really finding their ski legs and executing proper mechanics."
MacLellan explained with less-than-ideal snowfall on the mountain and several runs not yet open, skiers have faced some pretty major impediments to their training similar to what competing skiers have had to deal with. However, for what the WMSC competitors are lacking in training, they make up for in drive.
"They're so hungry to get in the gates because we've been relinquished of our regular routine of being able to set up training course and set up race-training environments for them to capitalize on," he said. "It's been technical freeskiing around with the general public here — hopping and jumping over top of little rocks along the way and waiting in big lift lines.
"But they still keep the passion."
MacLennan noted the skiers are able to put in similar time on the mountain, but practice has been a lot of technical work as opposed to coursework.
"It's a blessing in disguise, because if you end up working with incorrect techniques in a tactical environment, you end up interfering with your overall performance," he said "It's making us work on the proper mechanics and the proper technical attributes."
The next major event for the U16 racers is at Red Mountain from Jan. 16 to 18. The race, combined with the Sun Peaks event, will help determine Team BC's skiers at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George from Feb. 13 to March 1. With Renzoni and her fellow skiers placing well among the 1999 and 2000 birth years, qualifying to compete on the national stage is within their sights.