The Kimberley Alpine Team (KAT) has received the BC Alpine Club Development of the Year Award.
It is one of the organization’s most prestigious awards and it recognizes a club that demonstrates strong growth, progress and leadership, as well as athlete retention and development and the club’s community engagement.
KAT program director Ben Cohen said this is a huge win for the club. This is his fourth season with the team and said that in that time he’s seen it grow a tremendous amount.
“Four years ago we were sitting at about 80 club members as a whole and no really top end athletes in alpine or freestyle and now we’re in a position where we’ve got 130 athletes and seeing strong athlete retention,” Cohen said.
“We’re developing some up and coming competitive athletes hopefully to move to the provincial teams and we’re just getting to that point where we’re actually seeing a full, strong club top to bottom, where we were missing lots of bits and pieces before.
“So now we’re just pulling everything together and seeing the strength in numbers in all areas, which is what’s most important to me.”
KAT’s athletes range from age four to 18, with about 40 in their Grassroots program aged four to eight and then 43 in alpine and 48 in freestyle.
“We’re seeing a well-rounded spread in our numbers,” Cohen said. “Our freestyle program was brand-new four years ago, so to see that go from eight athletes all the way up and now we’ve got some strong athletes coming out of here which is really exciting.”
The team had 25 coaches this past season, which was a big part of their success and demonstrates a higher level of engagement from the local ski community. And it’s no small feat either, as getting knowledgeable and engaged coaches involved for a part-time position is a tough thing to do in a small town.
This past season was “extremely affected” by the COVID pandemic Cohen said, but they’ve definitely made the best of it.
“I pretty much accepted no competition in October,” he said. “I just kind of shifted gears and that was the best thing that we could have done.”
The team reformatted all of their programming due to COVID, from smaller details like the length of their days and lunch hours to a shift in their technical focus: away from competition prep towards more long-term skill development.
As a result of this, the team had a really successful season of athlete development and Cohen said they’re in a stronger place as a club now than they were at the start of the season.
“It was super exciting to have a chance to really invest all our time and energy into the actual skill acquisition, rather than just prepping for the test,” Cohen explained. “Our season is so short anyways, we’re always under the time crunch so to actually take the time to do things right was amazing.”
In addition to that silver lining, Cohen said that the team provided a an outlet for its athletes and coaches from the stress and uncertainty created by the pandemic.
“Our attendance was the highest it’s ever been as far as athletes not missing days,” Cohen said. “It became a really positive outlet for them, especially a lot of athletes who were losing one or two or more sports through the school system and us being able to facilitate that got a lot more athletes out and it was great.”
He added that having the support of Kimberley Alpine Resort as a partner has been hugely beneficial. They’ve supported the team when they weren’t able to have actual competitions, providing other competitive avenues so the team was still able to get into the “competitive vibe” at home, without having to travel for it.
“We were able to really just change it up to make it really worthwhile and with our young guys doing scavenger hunt type stuff and just really tried to make it a fun place to be,” he said. “The resort did a great job in keeping everyone safe and keeping the lifts spinning and it worked out really good.”
For the past few years the team has been developing athletes who are now pushing into the more competitive end of freestyle and alpine skiing. Currently they are working on getting their summer conditioning programs rolling to get these athletes set up to re-enter competition next year at a higher level that their club has ever competed at before.
“It’s super exciting to move from this crazy no-competition season into what likely will be our most elite season as a club that we’ve seen in like ten years,” Cohen said.
He said that the future is bright for the sport and the team as he’s seeing more and more people get into skiing and similar sports due to the pandemic limiting other activities. He said this award they’ve received validates the hard work and dedication put in by the team and looks forward to what the future holds.
“The cool thing about this award is that it recognizes us as a club as a whole, so that goes from coaches, athletes, parents — it’s the entire vibe and family, tight-knit club community that we’re trying to promote and so seeing that be recognized is super exciting.”
For more information about the team you can visit www.kimberleyalpineteam.ca