Wednesday Nights has become over the years synonym for Ottawa Ski Masters racing, but it wasn’t the case for myself.
Where was I over one decade ago? I was stuck in a job, often working long hours and not definitely not skiing enough, especially since I started working and moved to Ottawa in the Winter 1995. During that 1994-1995 season, Caroline and I skied a few times around the locals hills, but I was bored. Mind you, I had grown allergic to small ski areas after spending 7 seasons racing for the Université de Montréal ski team (1986-1992). At the end of those years, I couldn’t barely set my skis on hills with a vertical less than 2000′. Once I arrived in Ottawa, I tried skiing local, but I preferred driving hundreds of miles per weekend than skiing here. This attitude, more demanding work, starting a family lead to fewer days on snow and felt depressed. I longed for more time, more quality ski days.
Many Canadians play in Adult Recreational Hockey Leagues, however I only played one year as a kid until I had to choose between hockey and skiing. Back in the Fall 2001, I was surfing on the net on this great website called FirstTracksOnline, which had tons of links. I discovered a link for the Ottawa Masters Ski Association. Read the website and called the contact person. I was informed of the format and invited to their open-house evening at host by Tommy and Lefebvre Ski Shop. Ski Adult racing was just what I needed to get out of the house, get some purpose driven turns and do something else with my life than being stuck at work.
Fast forward to the first schedule race of the season: Camp Fortune Wednesday January 2, 2002. Heading up for my 3rd ski outings for a third day in a row, 4th day since the beginning of the season on December 7. Skied on the 31th with Morgane and my wife at Fortune and solo daytrip to Tremblant on New Year Day. Skiing on January 1st had become an annual thing, this was the 4th year in a row.
December 2001 had been particular warm with very little Winter in the air or on the ground. This evening would mark my return to ski racing; after a 9 years hiatus, I was going to renew with skiing against the clock. It would also mark my first time with my new skis, parabolic skis: the 183 cm short Atomic Beta Race 10:22. In the past few years, I’ve been skiing on 201cm long old straight Rossignol 7SK slalom skis.
I arrived at Fortune only to find out that the first race was canceled. Regardless the Masters were setup in the bar and selling lift ticket for $10 (normally you also have to pay for the race also which was $15). A great deal no matter how you count it. The GS would have probably been run on Slalom or maybe Marshall (I don’t recall if it was open), but Slalom didn’t have enough snow to open. Not much was open on this warm start to the season.
Instead of racing, a small 10-15 gates slalom course was up in the middle of Clifford, which was actually the side of the part of the open trail. Masters racers were welcomed to ski the course. I got a good feel for my new skis and trying to remember how to turn between gates. Although I had GS skis at 183, these skis were still shorter than the skis I was use to ski on and it slowly came back to me.
I got to know a few of the regulars that evening. As we were riding the quad with Bob and a couple other guys, he mentioned that they were going to move the guns on Slalom next in order to get the trail open soon. I thought to myself that he most work here and that his family are probably owners of the ski hill. It wasn’t until later that I realized that Bob was the owner with his brother, who knew? I found it pretty cool that someone roughly my age owned one of the most important ski areas in the region and actually ski gates with us.
Although I didn’t race on this evening and that my return to racing was postponed to the following weekend at Edelweiss. On this evening, I got to tryout my new skis and break the ice with fellow adults racers on the hill and in the bar afterward.
Fast forward to 2012, we were supposed to have the Masters first race of the season tonight, but lack of open terrain forced us to postponed the start of the season by one week due to lack of snow for the first time since that evening in 2002. This season the Ottawa Masters will be celebrating their 30th year, come out and race. You won’t regret it.