Mount Washington is not the biggest ski hill in Canada, but it is home to some big names in Canadian ski racing.
Allison Forsyth, Mathieu Leduc, Davon Callander and Teal Harle are among the high-profile athletes who got their start with the Mount Washington Ski Club.
The club is celebrating its 35th season this year and is hoping as many former members as possible will join them for their Feb. 12-13 reunion weekend.
As current members keep an eye on the sky and hope for snow, registration is underway for all club programs. Details are at mtwashingtonskiclub.com
“Whether you are a new young skier looking for an organized program to learn the basics in a small group, family, club-like setting taught by certified CSIA/CSCF coaches, or a more seasoned skier looking for a group to shred it up on the mountain, we have something for every age and skill level,” said MWSC spokesperson Maureen Clarke.
The MWSC also has a Facebook page dedicated to the 35th year celebrations www.facebook.com/MWSC35/ and invites submissions and comments.
“We want this to be a true celebration, a chance to come home, remember/relive your time in the club, reconnect with old friends and see where we are today,” the club notes.
John Trimmer has been head coach of the club for 30 of its 35 years, with a three-year hiatus when he coached the B.C. women’s provincial ski team from 1999 to 2002.
The MWSC began in 1980, and Stan Hanson was the coach when Trimmer became involved.
“I never really raced,” said Trimmer. “I was skiing around the mountain and I think he liked the way I skied. He grabbed me and I started helping out and it just kind of built from there.”.
In his 30 years as coach there have been great results by the skiers, from local to international levels.
There are also “many incredible memories” of travelling through the United States and Europe.
But he answers quickly when asked what the highlight has been.
“Just some absolutely amazing kids that have gone on to do amazing things. With skiing, the way we are together all the time, the skills they learn growing up on the road trying to figure things out, dealing with peers, the camaraderie, keeping up with their school, time management is a huge thing,” Trimmer said.
“I look at this picture (of former club members) here and there’s several doctors, a heart surgeon … some pretty amazing people.”
The lifeskills that skiing promotes is also important.
“The kids and the atmosphere … being a small part in helping them become what they want,” Trimmer said. “The bigger thing is making sure it’s fun and they build a ton of skills to help them do whatever else in life.”
Forsyth a local success story
The club’s biggest success story is Allison Forsyth, the eight-time Canadian champion and two-time Olympian who has five World Cup podiums on her resume as well as a giant slalom bronze medal from the world championships.
Following in her siblings’ footsteps, Forsyth was skiing at the age of two and recalls Peter Gibson was her first coach. When she started racing at age five, Trimmer became her coach.
“My dad and mom, Jack and Marion, were very integral in starting the club. My mom was president of the club for many years,” the 37-year-old Forsyth said from her home in Vancouver.
“My earliest memories of my life, I was already a part of MWSC. One of my earliest memories, actually, I was about five or six when they built the club cabin.
We have pictures of all of us kids standing outside with dynamite in our hands because they were going to blow up the rock to build the cabin,” she recalls with a laugh.
Forsyth says she was always very proud to race for Mount Washington and the club. “What I love most about it was it really felt like a family, a very welcoming and supportive environment to race.
“I did spend one year at the Whistler club before making the B.C. team, but in my whole life I felt the time I spent with MWSC was the most rewarding.”
Forsyth was forced to retire from racing in 2008 after suffering a knee injury during training for the women’s downhill at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.
She has been with Lululemon (yoga apparel retailer) for eight years and for the past six months has been managing their ivivva brand that supports young female athletes and their goals.
She hopes to get her young boys – 4-1/2 and 1-1/2 – skiing this winter as the family lives just 10 minutes from the base of Mount Seymour.
“From my experience growing up at Mount Washington and being part of the club, I really love the local community feel of a small mountain,” she said.
Another MWSC graduate is Mathieu Leduc, a member of the Canadian Ski Cross team since 2013. A former alpine skier, Leduc has taken part in World Cup races since 2012-13. He had a career-best eighth place finish in Are, Sweden in 2014.
“I started with the Mount Washington Ski Club when I was really young – four or five,” he recalls. “Had great coaching and met some of my best friends. The club really shaped who I am today.
“Through the years the club has been led by some great coaches and has had great volunteers and staff that are passionate about the sport and the kids who compete and enjoy the slopes.
“Even through tough seasons the support is always strong. I am very proud to represent the team and Mount Washington on the World Cup this season,” says Leduc, who was 27th overall in the 2013-14 world rankings.
This season will be a comeback one for Leduc.
“I spent the last 18 months recovering from a major knee injury I sustained at World Cup finals in 2014.
“My goals this season are to get back to form, get some podium results and qualify for X Games in Colorado in February,” Leduc said.
Other MWSC success stories include Davon Callander, who competed on the FIS alpine circuit in the late-1990s before back problems forced her to retire, and Teal Harle, one of the rising stars with the Canadian slopestyle national team.
There definitely will be plenty to celebrate and reminisce about at the club’s February reunion.