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First day after the first real rain event and real icy conditions since mid-January. The thaw/rain event only lasted for one day, but the damage to the surface was done when the temps went back down to the Winter freeze. We didn’t look that much snow, it just became rock hard solid.

Most of the locals hills were closed during the rain on Friday, but not Mont Ste-Marie. The hill was host to the regional U14 speed camp for the last three days. Skiing Super G in the rain until they stopped at noon. The MSM is the further race from Ottawa which also happens to have the earliest registration. This made it a rough morning. Some racers barely had time to get everything dry for this morning race: a giant slalom. As I was waiting for the team to show up at the lodge, MSM had setup a large TV with the Olympics on. What great timing, it was the start of the Sochi’s Men Slalom’s first run. A few of the athletes and coaches watched the start of the slalom, including one coach that participated in the last two Olympic Slaloms.

By the time the Edelweiss racers arrived from Ottawa, it was time for me to leave for the coaches meeting at the bottom of Cheval Blanc. The meeting was finished at the time inspection was opening up. A quick rush to the top with the HSQ then down fast the Outaouais trail for inspection of this GS course. It would seem more trees were cut as the starting area was larger plus they was a larger traverse from Betsy to the start of the GS course on avoiding the narrow part of Outaouais run.

As mentioned in previous years for the U16 race: the Outaouais course is full of rollers. You have to be ahead and not sit back or you’ll get in trouble. Although this course wasn’t as dramatic as last year’s U16 GS: they were still a few close calls and a few more DNFs. The fastest girl in the region didn’t complete a run: flying off a roll in the 1st run eventually not finishing and bouncing off the hill with her face in the second. Even if she easily won all previous races, coaches were mentioning that was only skiing at 85% at those race and now was pushing on giving her full 100%. Wow!!! Edelweiss girls skied a much better second run: Emelyn was just missed out on making the Provincials in Quebec City. At the end of the day, we got to watch the final run of the Olympic slalom. Great timing!!!

The conditions? We always get weather at Mont Ste-Marie, either snow and freezing cold. Today was just normal, except the snow conditions. Let just say that they closed the Rideau Canal for skating today and redirected skating to the Outaouais trail. Holy blue sheets of ice!!! Almost no skiers where skating on the Cheval Blanc side, everyone was on the main Vanier hill. But to repeat the saying: “There is no bad snow, just bad skiers!!!”

MSM U14 Giant Slalom Results Ladies
1 THOMAS, Sophie VORLA 43.80 42.05 1:25.85
2 LEDUC, Charlotte ASM 44.82 42.54 1:27.36
3 TAN, Sophia CALAB 45.90 42.07 1:27.97

MSM U14 Giant Slalom Results Men
1 DUFF, Sam CALAB 42.29 38.62 1:20.91
2 GUIMONT, Eric VORLA 42.53 40.36 1:22.89
3 MARLER, Aidan MARIE 43.57 39.87 1:23.44

20140222_msm

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The Sochi Winter Olympic Games are now underway and Canadian eyes are on Erik Guay. I recently read that Mont-Tremblant skier was now Canada’s top ski racer of all-time. As Guay tries to add an Olympic medal to his World Championship Downhill Gold and World Cup Crystal Globe for SuperG, I’ve decided that explore the question : Who is Canada greatest skier?

Skiing has many disciplines and it’s hard to compare one skier to the next. There are nordic and alpine with various subgroups within both categories. For Alpine skiers, you have Freestyle, ski mountaineer and traditional Alpine racers. Skiers like Wayne Wong, John Eaves set the seed in what would become Freestyle where the Quebec Air Force are other Canadians would dominate. Groundbreaking mountaineer duo of Trevor Petersen and Eric Pehota; three Phils, JP Auclair, Sarah Burke, Shane McConkey that revolutionized the sport. And then there is Norwegian and Canadian icon Jackrabbit Johannsen skiing actively for over one century, his impact on the sport cannot be undersold.

In the Alpine racer category, skiers like Rhona and Rhoda Wurtele, Lucille Wheeler, Anne Heggtveit, Nancy Greene, gold medalist Kathy Kreiner, the Crazy Canucks easily come to mind.

There are many great Canadian skiers and it is impossible to measure who is the best. Even if we focus uniquely within Alpine racers like Erik Guay, we have more disciplines and careers are longer than in the Crazy Canucks’ era. The best example is that Erik Guay has had 21 podiums in 11 World Cup seasons is still competing at 31 while Nancy Greene retired in 1968 with 20 podiums in only two seasons. Although she competed at the 1960 Olympic at 16 and went to three Olympics, she only competed in the first two-years of the World Cup circuit and retired the age of 24, still in her prime. Prior to the World Cup in 1967-68, they were various races, but the truly world competitions were at the World Championships or the Winter Olympics. And then there are skiers like Ernie McCulloch was illegible for the Olympics as he was a paid ski instructor. McCulloch won numerous races in North America and he beat French Olympic champion Henri Oreiller and the rest of the very strong French team after the 1948 Games. The Wurtele twins weren’t professionals, but they weren’t many World class competitions during the War years when they were in their prime. They were part of the Canadian Olympic team in 1948 games, unfortunately they got injured just prior to the competitions.

It is similar to asking the question who is the greatest hockey player of all-time? Wayne Gretzky has the most career points, but he played in an era when goals were frequent and they played 80 games a season. The same logic can apply to skiing.

Who is the Best Canadian Alpine Skier of All-Time?

Here are the numbers for Men and Ladies.

World Cup Championships
Nancy Greene : 2 overall titles and 2 GS titles (1967 & 1968)
Betsy Clifford : 1 Slalom title (1971)
Steve Podborski : 1 Downhill title (1980)
Erik Guay : 1 SuperG title (2010)

World Cup Wins : Men
1) Steve Podborski (1979-1984) : 8
2) Ken Read (1976-1980) : 5
3) Erik Guay (2007-2014) : 4
4) Manuel Osborne-Paradis (2007-2010) : 3
5) Todd Brooker (1983-1985) : 3
6) Rob Boyd (1987-1989) : 3
7) Thomas Grandi (2005) : 2
8) Jan Hudec (2008-2012) : 2
9) John Kucera (2007) : 1
10) Ed Podivinsky (1994) : 1
11) Cary Mullen (1994) : 1
12) Dave Irwin (1976) : 1
12) Felix Belczyk (1988) : 1

World Cup Wins : Ladies
1) Nancy Greene (1967-1968) : 14
2) Laurie Graham (1983-1987) : 6
3) Gerry Sorensen (1981-1984) : 5
4) Betsy Clifford (1970-1971) : 3
5) Kate Pace (1993-1994) : 2
6) Emily Brydon (2008) : 1
7) Melanie Turgeon (2000) : 1
8) Kathy Kreiner (1974) : 1
9) Genevieve Simard (2004) : 1
10) Liisa Savijarvi (1986) : 1
11) Britt Janyk (2008) : 1
11) Marie-Michele Gagnon (2014) : 1
11) Erin Mielzynski (2012) : 1

World Cup Podiums : Men
1) Erik Guay (2004-2014) : 21
2) Steve Podborski (1979-1984) : 20
3) Ken Read (1976-1983) : 14
4) Manuel Osborne-Paradis (2007-2010) : 9
5) Thomas Grandi (1998-2006) : 9
6) Todd Brooker (1982-1985) : 7
7) Rob Boyd (1987-1991) : 6
8) Ed Podivinsky (1994-2000) : 6
9) Jan Hudec (2008-2014) : 5
10) François Bourque (2005-2007) : 4

World Cup Podiums : Ladies
1) Nancy Greene (1967-1968) : 20
2) Laurie Graham (1980-1987) : 14
3) Betsy Clifford (1970-1976) : 9
4) Emily Brydon (2001-2010) : 9
5) Melanie Turgeon (1999-2003) : 8
6) Kathy Kreiner (1973-1981) : 7
7) Gerry Sorensen (1981-1984) : 6
8) Kerrin Lee-Gartner (1991-1994) : 6
9) Kate Pace (1993-1994) : 5
10) Genevieve Simard (2002-2006) : 5
11) Karen Percy (1986-1990) : 5
12) Allison Forsyth (2000-2005) : 5

Olympics and World Championships Golds
* Olympic Games and World Championships used to be awarded at the same race. The exception would be for the Combine which was only counted for the World Championships. Heggtveit, Greene and Kreiner victories got them two medals
1) Nancy Greene (OW1968*, W1968) : 3
2) Anne Heggtveit (OW1960*, W1960) : 3
3) Lucille Wheeler (W1958) : 2
4) Kathy Kreiner (OW1976*) : 2
5) Betsy Clifford (W1970) : 1
6) Kerrin Lee-Gartner (O1992) : 1
6) Gerry Sorensen (W1982) : 1
6) Kate Pace (W1993) : 1
6) Melanie Turgeon (W2003) : 1
6) Erik Guay (W2011) : 1
6) John Kucera (W2009) : 1

Olympics and World Championships Podiums : Men
* Olympic Games and World Championships used to be awarded at the same race. Podborski was awarded two medals for one race.
1) Steve Podborski (OW1980*) : 2
2) John Kucera (W2009) : 1
2) Erik Guay (W2011) : 1
4) Jan Hudec (W2009) : 1
5) Jim Hunter (W1972) : 1
5) Ed Podivinsky (O1994) : 1
5) Michael Janyk (W2009) : 1

Olympics and World Championships Podiums : Ladies
* Olympic Games and World Championships used to be awarded at the same race. Wheeler’s one Olympic medal was awarded two medals for that race.
1) Lucille Wheeler (W1958, OW1956*) : 5
2) Nancy Greene (OW1968*, W1968) : 5
3) Karen Percy (O1988, W1989) : 3
4) Anne Heggtveit (OW1960*, W1960) : 3
5) Betsy Clifford (W1970, W1974) : 2
6) Kathy Kreiner (OW1976) : 2
7) Kerrin Lee-Gartner (O1992) : 1
7) Gerry Sorensen (W1982) : 1
7) Kate Pace (W1993) : 1
7) Melanie Turgeon (W2003) : 1
11) Laurie Graham (W1982) : 1
11) Allison Forsyth (W2003) : 1

The Canadian Championships were first held in 1929 and have been an annual event since 1947. The dynamic in looking at the best Alpine racer at the Canadian Championships is slightly different. For example Jim Read, Ken Read’s younger brother has more championships than the original Crazy Canuck. Jim was one of the few Canadians at that time to specialized in the technical disciplines and won numerous championships, but never finished in the top 10 at the World Cup, World Championships or Olympics versus Ken’s 5 victories and 14 podiums. There was also more competition amongst Canadians in downhill in the Crazy Canucks era.

Canadian Championships : Men
1) Thomas Grandi (1992-2003) : 11
2) Jim Hunter (1971-1977) : 10
3) Peter Monod (1978-1982) : 8
3) Jim Read (1982-1987) : 8
3) John Kucera (2005-2009) : 8
3) Erik Guay (2002-2010) : 8
7) Rod Hebron (1962-1968) : 7
8) Jean-Guy Brunet (1961-1964) : 6
8) Ken Read (1975-1980) : 6
8) Jean-Philippe Roy (2000-2004) : 6

Canadian Championships : Ladies
1) Nancy Greene (1962-1968) : 18
2) Britt Janyk (2002-2011) : 15
3) Kathy Kreiner (1974-1979) : 12
4) Emily Brydon (1998-2010) : 10
4) Marie-Michèle Gagnon (2009-2013) : 10
6) Allison Forsyth (1997-2001) : 8
7) Rhoda Wurtele (1947-1951) : 7
7) Betsy Clifford (1973-1976) : 7
7) Karen Percy (1985-1989) : 7
7) Josée Lacasse (1981-1990) : 7
7) Mélanie Turgeon (1993-2001) : 7

Sources : Alpine Canada
Ski DB – Alpine Ski Database

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With the assistance from postcards written on December 14 & 20, 1992.


Photo: Thierry Astruc
December 14th Postcard written to my mother in Canada

I’ve rarely had time to ski prior to Christmas due to midterm exams, correcting or other engagements. Always had no time with Killington’s October stealth openings then would generally manage one or two outings before the end of semester crunch in December.

Fall 1992 was slightly different; I had absolutely no time to go skiing. I had to meet a self-imposed deadline and finish almost 4 years of graduate studies. Thesis was completed on November 30, numerous copies made for the faculty, jury and directors and off to Mirabel Airport for the Montreal-London-Lyon flights. Graduate work was over until the jury would meet, which gave me probably 2-3 months of time off with the Christmas Holidays.

Overnight flight and unable to sleep after being awake for over 55 hours and barely slept in the last month in order to compete the thesis. Blame it on last-minute major “suggestions” by one of my directors and formatting changes from one computer to the next (home computer was new to me, I had just bought a Mac Classic with no printer in the last few months and didn’t know that formatting changed with the type of printer used). A five and a half hour wait at Heathrow Airport in London until my 90 minutes flight to Lyon, France. I was going to visit my girlfriend and her family outside Lyon. This wasn’t my first visit to France and it wasn’t my first time in the Alps either. The New Year 1991 trip was for less than 2 weeks with the University ski team and was only about skiing, although some people might think that skiing in gates isn’t skiing. This trip was 2 months and it wasn’t focused on skiing, but I brought my ski gear anyway.

The first week was spent recuperating and sleeping from the high stress of the last few months. We also visited the surrounding villages, Lyon, the Beaujolais and Burgundy regions. It took us 18 days to finally make it to the Alps on December 18.


Flying into London with St. Paul Cathedral below


December in Lyon


Cremieu, Isère : a few minutes from my in-laws


Beaujolais


Brançion, Burgundy

This was the latest start to my ski season in memory, and first time I hadn’t skied in November since I’ve been keeping track back in 1981. It had been just above 6 months since my last day at Killington on June 11th.

In Lyon I bought the Guide Curien de la Neige, a French magazine that listed France 383 ski areas. Caroline had mentioned Chamrousse was a real option as it was only 135km and 2 hours away; she had skied there a few times as a teen. The base is located at 1600 metres and sits on the mountains just above Grenoble, the site of the 1968 Winter Olympics. Chamrousse was host to the Games alpine skiing events. Croix de Chamrousse is the summit located at 2255m.

chamrousse
Google Maps: The 135km day drive from the in-laws to the Olympic Mountain: Chamrousse

So the skiing was about the same distance as Tremblant from Montreal with approximately the same vertical, but much less expensive. Lift tickets were sold 80 FF ($20 CDN), although it was low season prior to this coming weekend. Today was Friday, we were hoping to come on Wednesday, but we wanted Winter tires installed on the mother-in-law’s Peugeot first. I found this reproduction of an old 50 year-old postcard; Chamrousse was arguably one of the first locations where skiing was practiced in France in the late 1800s.


Edition R. Girard, Photo : Centrale Grenoble
December 20th Postcard written to my mother in Canada

Skimap.org: Chamrousse Ski Map 2006
Source: Skimap.org: Chamrousse Ski Map 2005-06

We drove up to Roche Béranger base at 1750 metres. The place was quiet and it was a low-tide Friday, one week away from Christmas. Chamrousse’s elevation is lower than other Isère Department ski areas like Alpe d’Huez and Les Deux Alpes. We started skiing around Roche Béranger and slowly towards the left on the trails network and base area of Le Recoin at 1650m. The skiing terrain was fine near Roche Béranger; Arolles and Gaboureaux were some of the steeper open stuff which lead to the other base. That base was bigger and a tram reached the highest point. Runs down to Lac Robert or lower down towards 1400m weren’t open.

Caroline had started skiing when she was 6, and she spent a few years of her childhood in France’s Southern Alps; her technique was a bunch of mixed elements, some probably dating back to the 1960s French technique when Killy and Canadian Tiger Greene won medals at Chamrousse. She had skied only twice during her year in Canada, and once with me at Tremblant in late April. I gave her a few pointers, and continued to deprogram her from bad habits, and teach her from scratch. She was much better than an ex-girlfriend which had never skied before meeting me and that was in 1992. Now she is so a much better skier.

We skied Les Crêtes and the excellent and fun Mens’ Olympics Downhill, which was steep at the top and twisted on the mountain face. I was jealous of people living in Grenoble with this ski area sitting above them.

It would seem that snow is rare, even in the mountains. The lack of artificial snow and no base means rocks. It was super warm on that day, and the past week with +12c. The snow was good with some freshies, however the lack of base and a few rocks isn’t good for your ski bases: now my skis needed a place to get fixed.


Crossing over onto Le Recoin : Croix de Chamrousse and Tram to the summit


Skiing on the Roche Béranger side with Tram in the distance


Le Recoin below and Grenoble further below


Grenoble in the valley


Backside


Looking at the summit from Le Recoin base


December days are short

MadPat’s Gallery:
18 décembre 1992 : Chamrousse

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