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Spotlight on: McGill Alpine Skiing Team

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They’re McGill’s version of the Crazy Canucks–and frankly, they just don’t get enough attention around here. Quebec is home to some of the best ski hills in the country, and while you and your friends are getting drunk on the slopes with the SSMU Ski and Snowboard Club on the weekend, the McGill Alpine Ski team is putting in work in the gym and on the mountain. 

The team trains twice a week at Mount St. Sauveur. After classes, the team boards the bus and head out for the hill at around 4:30 p.m. The skiiers then spend five hours doing exhausting on-hill training and usually don’t get back home until 11:30 p.m. Race day mornings are even more gruelling. Wake-up is before sunrise, and the skiers have to be dressed and on the hill by 7:30 a.m. for warm-up runs and course inspection.

“Each racer will slide through the course and attempt to memorize the technical sections or areas that have reduced visibility,” second-year racer Robert Cohen said. “Inspection is usually about 45 minutes, and then the race starts shortly after.”

The races are either slalom–where the gates are spaced tightly together forcing racers to wiggle through the course–or giant slalom–where the gates are further apart for faster speeds. After two races, times are tallied and the medals are given out. Every bit of strength, technique, and speed counts in these events, as the top of the pack is usually neck and neck. 

“It’s common to have 10 [racers] within a second of each other,” Cohen said.

This season has been a transition year for the squad after losing seven racers from last season.

“We weren’t as competitive this year as we were last year,” Cohen said. “We lost quite a few older skiers and we were unable to replace […] them.”

That being said, the impressive rookies on the team have done their best to make up for the veteran losses. Freshman Cole Rosenberg has been a major addition to the squad this year, finishing as the Redmen’s top racer on most days.

“[I] really try to focus on maximizing the small amounts of time we are actually on the hill,” Rosenberg said when asked about his successes.

At Mount Tremblant on Friday, Rosenberg finished second for the Redmen, just a second behind fellow freshman William Stone. While Rosenberg struggled in Saturday’s event, senior Physics major William Laver stepped up for McGill, finishing 24th overall against tough competition. Overall, the Redmen team finished third in the competition, falling shy of Université de Montréal and Laval, a recurring narrative for this McGill team.

For the Martlets, third-year captain Allene Kennedy has been phenomenal all season. Her season highlight was a podium finish in February, when she took home a bronze medal at the Owl’s Head ski meet. This past weekend, Kennedy finished 16th and 12th in her races for the Martlets, just barely getting edged out of the top 15 on Friday by fellow Martlet, Jacqueline Baudinet. Just like the men’s team, the Martlets finished third, just behind the same two teams that edged out the Redmen racers.

McGill took home the 2010 Quebec University Alpine Ski Championship, but they’ve struggled since as the competition level has increased significantly over the past five years.

“In the last few years, the entire ski circuit has become a lot more competitive,” Cohen said. “Université de Montréal and Laval both have multiple former national team members racing for them.”

Fortunately, the team isn’t expected to lose many racers next year, as only captain Brandon McCool and Daniel Cohen are presumed to be leaving. While this season was not as successful as the team would have liked, the alpine ski team has a bright future ahead of it.

  • Emily O.

    Thank you Aaron Rose for taking the time to research, interview and write about the McGill alpine ski team and our beautiful sport. As former team captain, it makes me super happy to see this group of hard-working student athletes and this incredibly resilient under-dog varsity team get some time in the spotlight. Well done.

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