Skiing, Snowboarding Get Creative
Every sport has had to find ways to adapt during the uncertainty of 2020, but freestyle skiing pulled off something truly creative this fall: they held a sanctioned competition with no snow.
The province’s high-performance skiers and snowboarders normally spend a lot of time on the road before the snow piles up at Nova Scotia’s hills, including fall training in Europe and an early December stint in Quebec. But of course, COVID-19 has put a halt on travel this season.
That hasn’t stopped athletes and coaches from coming up with solutions, says Andrew Hayes, the executive director for Alpine, Freestyle Skiing and Snowboard Nova Scotia.
“These groups, to their credit, are the most optimistic people,” he says.
Along with connecting online and making the most of fitness, nutrition and mental conditioning training offered through the Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic, skiers and snowboarders worked out at the Titans gymnastics club when conditions permitted. And they spent most weekends using the airbag training site at Ski Wentworth whenever the weather cooperated.
In November, Wentworth held a sanctioned freestyle event using the airbag, with judging and physically distanced spectators. The only thing missing was real snow, but that didn’t slow anyone down.
“The kids had a great time. They thought it was a great event,” says high-performance coach Thor Durning. “Just to be in that competitive mindset helps the athletes to be able to prepare for the winter season and competition.”
The airbag competition was the first of its kind to be held as a sanctioned event in Canada, Durning says. “I have lots of peers (across Canada) on social media, and the biggest thing I got from everybody was, ‘What a great idea.’ We’re so fortunate to have quality judges here in Nova Scotia so we were able to run that event.”
Holding the event was a “lightbulb moment,” Hayes says. “We thought, ‘Why haven’t we done this before?’” he says. “That’s just one simple story of people maximizing (what’s possible) during an awkward time of year.”
Hayes says he’s been impressed with the passion of the ski and snowboard community as they push ahead with preparations for the winter season amid so much uncertainty.
“It’s unbelievable, the amount of work and volunteering people are willing to do… to make the most of things to ensure (the sports are) as strong as possible in this province.”
As a coach, Durning says that all the adjustments have brought an already tight-knit group of athletes even closer. “2020 just kind of reinforced that everyone in this sport is all in it together.”