FIS Speed Camp at Kimberley Alpine Resort. Diane Malaher Katrusiak photos.

FIS Speed Camp at Kimberley Alpine Resort. Diane Malaher Katrusiak photos.

Dreadnaught Ski Racing’s season kicks off at Kimberley Alpine Resort

A momentous season of alpine ski racing has officially commenced at Kimberley Alpine Resort (KAR), with the return of the annual 10-day FIS Speed Camp, Downhill and Super G races and Night Slalom, running from Jan. 23 to Feb. 1.

This event has been held in Kimberley since 2013 and normally draws around 80 to 90 racers, but this year drew 121 with 68 men and 53 women and 17-21 being the primary age group.

The Kimberley Bulletin sat down at the Athlete Training Centre in Kimberley’s Convention Centre, with Donna Briggs and Lloyd Steeves of Dreadnaught Ski Racing. The two first met at a ski race in Lake Louise in 2003 and together have been essential to the success of ski racing in Kimberley for the past decade.

READ MORE: Kimberley’s Lloyd Steeves and Donna Briggs win Alpine Canada Volunteers of the Year

Briggs explained that this FIS event acts as a stepping stone for competitors to advance as athletes and potentially get on to a provincal team like the BC Alpine Team.

“It’s a great opportunity for these athletes from other clubs to be able to race alongside their counterparts that are on provincial teams,” Briggs said.

This FIS race has taken place in Kimberley since 2013, and Briggs said it has really gained steam post COVID.

“There used to be other downhills that were run; Lake Louise always had a Nor-Am downhill, Panorama had a Nor-Am downhill before Christmas,” Briggs said. “Some of the scheduling has changed so this could potentially be the only downhill track in Canada that runs from this point forward.

“So it’s a big deal.”

Steeves said there are two main reasons that KAR and the Dreadnaught run in particular such an ideal destination for events such as this.

“One is that the resort is on our side and we have a dedicated race run,” he said. “To run a downhill, it’s the longest, fastest, most athletically demanding discipline. And the Dreadnaught run is safe and wide. We do a speed camp before we run downhill — we teach kids how to go fast.

“50 per cent of the kids on the Canadian Alpine speed team, learned to go fast on Dreadnaught.”

Having the support of the resort to dedicate a run like this is somewhat unique he added. Dreadnaught is also ideal because the track doesn’t cut across any other runs or cat tracks, plus it has the Kootenay House at the top, where the athletes can warm up between runs.

Then there’s the Paralympic Training Centre itself and all of the facilities and equipment it provides right on site. While it was dubbed the Paralympic Training Centre when it was created, Dreadnaught operates out of it for both para-alpine and able-bodied alpine teams.

After two years heavily impacted by the pandemic and the arson that disabled the resort’s main chairlift, Steeves and Briggs are thrilled to have Dreadnaught Racing back in full swing with four national championship events scheduled this year.

READ MORE: Prestigious season ahead for Dreadnaught Ski Racing

“We’re excited and so are the people that are coming here,” Steeves said. “Everybody misses this event and we’re excited. We’re glad our calendar is so full. Even though it is a ton of work.”

Dreadnaught is a not-for-profit organization, so everything they earn gets reinvested back into the program on things like safety and timing equipment, all of which is very expensive and must be maintained as it is used for a sport that involves a great deal of risk.

“There’s a lot of expenses that go into ski racing, they’re expensive events to run and so when we have a down year where we don’t make any revenue, it’s tough,” Briggs said. “Thankfully we’ve got some really good sponsors and people to help us.”

Alongside their main partner in Resorts of the Canadian Rockies and KAR, New Dawn Developments has come on this year as a sponsor, and viaSport has been a key partner, helping Dreadnaught access grant funding.

They also received a grant from the Canadian Revitalization Fund, allowing them to purchase new B-Nets and lights for night slalom, which will be available for other organizations to use throughout the year for their own events.

Along with the hard work, dedication and experience of Briggs and Steeves, high-caliber ski racing events like these are made possible by a key volunteer group. Many don’t even live in Kimberley, or have children on the teams, they do it solely for the passion of athlete development.

“Most of the people in our key volunteer group have somewhere in the neighbourhood of 30-plus years of experience in ski racing,” Briggs said.

And Steeves added they’re always looking for help and try to be as inclusive as possible, so if you have an interest in learning about and getting involved with ski racing, they will figure out a way to make that happen.

Steeves recently put on a Level 1 Officials Course for 20 Kimberley Alpine Team parents, an introductory course into ski racing.

“That’s another unique thing here, we have two ski clubs in the same town,” Steeves said, speaking of the Kimberley Alpine Team and the Kimberley Disabled Skiers Association. Dreadnaught works with both organizations.

“We include the Kimberley Alpine Team in everything as much as possible. So their parents are really entry level into ski racing, their kids are way younger than this age group that’s racing here today. They don’t have ski racing experience to be able to hold these higher level race events, so we try to train and mentor.”

In advance of this first event of the year, one of the main tasks was to set up five kilometres of B-Nets, or safety fencing.

This is a huge task to begin with, but this year was made even more challenging thanks to the 40-plus centimetres of snow that fell in Kimberley over the weekend.

After a weather event like that, Steeves said that the “jury” or group in charge of running the race is communicated with via WhatsApp, a plan is formulated and then executed. In this case it necessitated moving all the fencing out by a metre to allow for snow cats to groom the run and then moving the fencing back.

They also had the athletes circle around and do what’s known as a slip, pushing the snow off manually with their skis.

Having that group of dedicated and experienced volunteers allows them to be able to successfully navigate the many surprise hurdles that can arise when organizing ski races — such as a burst water pipe that got some of the athletes rooms wet on Monday morning.

“Rather than exclude those athletes from racing, we postponed it a day so that they can move to another room and get their heads straight,” Steeves explained. “It’s not fair to ask a young athlete who just ran out of a room in their pyjamas because water was running down to jump into a set of downhill skis and go 110 kilometres an hour down the hill.”

The decision was made to postpone Monday’s race by a day and run both Super G races on Tuesday, rather than each having its own day.

“Once again, it’s because of the experience of the volunteers and the coaches that we can do that,” Steeves said. “It means a much longer day for everybody, but the people understand and just get ‘er done.”


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