The first races of the year are coming up fast. Back when I started travelling to races, the first big races - at Silver Star - were really, really big. That was when the Continental Cup series were the biggest events, besides the respective National Championships, on both the American and Canadian race calendars. These races would bring all the best Canadians from East and West, many university teams from the US, and all the elite factory and development teams from both countries. Those were tough, tight races, comparable to the way the US Nationals are today. 30 seconds could easily mean 20 places in those races. A good race meant you knocked off some big names – a bad day, and you weren’t even sniffing the first, or the second, results page.
That all ended around five years ago. There were one or two seasons where some stubborn administrators couldn’t agree on a joint race calendar, and then I suppose we all got used the alternative – the US SuperTour, and the Canadian “NorAm” circuit, which is not truly North American. Sure, there were reasons why a combined tour didn’t work – something about insufficient prize money in a time of funding constraint – but definitely no great, overwhelming reason. While on the Board, I remember asking for CCC to explore the ideas of combined tours again with the USSA, but it never seemed to get high enough on the priority list for an under-resourced organization with a lot on its plate.
But combined race calendars are only the start. There are other areas where CCC and the USSA could work together. Coach training, officials courses, etc… but the big one is training – both for the National teams and for regional teams. Most of Canada’s population – something like 85% - live within 100km of the American border. Most of the good skiing in the US – at least in the East - is within a couple hours drive of the Canadian border. It’s ridiculous to silo training and racing when there’s just a border separating the two groups.
This October, for example, was particularly striking. The entire US Ski team, and most of the other elite teams in the US, got together for a huge camp at Lake Placid – about an hour from Canada. The pictures and reports sounded like it was a great experience, with many people at all ability levels to push others close to them. Not a single Canadian attended. Meanwhile, what did the Canadian team do? Went to Mammoth, California, for their own training camp. In the US. On their own.
I appreciate that different training philosophies are at play, but surely there are at least several workouts, most importantly the speed/intensity workouts, where the teams can get together. Unfortunately, I’m equally sure that skiing is full of independent personalities that don’t like to compromise or cooperate with other teams.
I just can’t see why we can’t work together a little more – at training, and at racing. We’re two countries with very similar goals, and similar results bases to build on over the past several years. We’re the only ski countries on this massive continent, and every year we have to go over to Europe to chase the other teams around – teams that have been racing each other in training competitions all summer. We all see the big cross-country and rollerski races in Estonia and Sweden and Norway in the summer – there are many countries represented. You can’t help but get better if you’ve got fast folks around you.
Think about the awesome potential training groups if we combined the US and Canadian teams!! I get excited even imagining having those sprinters go up against each other – on the guys or the girls side – and having the distance teams put in some great workouts together as they claw their way up the results sheet.
I think it’s time we re-ignited the concept. We’re two years away from a huge Olympics for both Americans and Canadians. We can still reap benefits if we started to race and train together. Why don’t we start exploring the idea?