Uphill Battle for Downhill Team

Concordia University Ski Club Looks to Improve in 2013

  • Photo Courtesy of Concordia University Ski Club

Concordia University’s Ski Club might not have the experience, funding or prestige of their adversaries—but don’t think that makes them any less determined.

“It’s a competitive sport,” said first-year member François Pagé. “We’re absolutely trying to win.”

Winning isn’t what the club had been doing much of in the past, with their last championship coming in the women’s category in 1991.

Their struggles continued all the way until last season, when the team finished the 2012 season ranked last in the men’s, women’s and overall categories.

But it’s a new year, a new season and a new mindset for the club. “We’re trying to become more serious and more official,” said Pagé.

It started with a more rigorous training program. The team first started hitting the gym four times a week in the fall, then the slopes twice a week in the winter. They even attended a training camp at Mont Saint-Anne during the first week of January, where they filmed their runs and watched them together to give and receive feedback.

Despite all the work it’s put in, the team remains realistic in its prospects for this season. “No one goes into a race telling themselves, ‘I’m going to win this race,’” said Pagé. “We go in with the goal of improving ourselves and breaking through our own plateaus.”

It’s an understandable position, considering the team’s situation. “We can’t compete with teams that have 10 skiers that have participated at the international level when we have just one or two,” said team captain Paul Blanc-Paque.

That’s the case, he said, for Université Laval and Université de Montréal. Both schools have the luxury of a choosing from a bigger pool of recruits as the only francophone universities with ski teams in Quebec. “Laval and Montréal hold selection camps,” he said. “We had just 26 requests to join the team this year, so we took them all.”

The fourth team in the league, McGill, is a popular destination for some of Ontario’s best skiers, according to Blanc-Paque.

“No one goes into a race telling themselves, ‘I’m going to win this race.’ We go in with the goal of improving ourselves and breaking through our own plateaus.”
–François Pagé, first-year member of the Concordia Ski Club

Meanwhile, Concordia’s ski team struggles to even earn recognition among its own students. “I had to present myself in a class this year, told them I am captain of the ski team and everybody looked up,” he said. “No one knows we have a ski team.”

But the team earned just the amount of recognition it needed. “We had 25 members last year,” said Blanc-Paque. “Rarely were there more than 11 or 12 before then.”

And, more importantly, the team now has the structure it needs to train those members. “Last year, there was one coach for 25 skiers,” said Blanc-Paque. “Usually, teams will have one coach for five to seven skiers.”

This year, the team boasts three coaches and two team captains—Blanc-Paque included—who have already helped instill a new mentality within the team. “We have girls on the team who had never been to the gym before, who now go five or six times a week,” he said. “This season, I expect those who were there last year [to] show us that they’re real skiers, that we start to get serious and improve our results,” Blanc-Paque said, quickly adding that there’s more to the club than winning, however. “We’re not trying to become professionals—everyone who’s here just wants to have fun,” Blanc-Paque said.

Unfortunately, that fun doesn’t come with the overseas training camps and expensive ski suits that Blanc-Paque says are offered at the likes of UdeM.

But one thing Concordia’s ski club prides itself on is its welcoming environment, which favours individual development over the expectation of podium finishes. “We won’t promise that we’ll win a championship, but we promise that at the end of the season, each of our skiers will be in shape, will have become better skiers and will leave university having had a positive experience as a member of the ski team.”

The Concordia Ski Club will officially hit the slopes for the first time this year Jan. 19, when they’ll slalom down Mont Saint-Sauveur in the opening race of the 2013 season.

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