by Marissa Lorenz
The town of Kremmling recently found itself serving as the Colorado home base to the Quebec Women’s Alpine Ski Team.
Ski Québec Alpin, represented by athletes Caroline Beauchamp, Sarah Bennett, Olivia Carrier, Alexandra Cossette, Justine Lamontagne, Mika-Anne Reha, and coaches Francis Royal, Dillon Prophet, and Justine Parent descended on Kremmling on March 20, looking to compete in area competitions and increase their 2020/2021 point accumulations and rankings for the International Ski Federation (FIS).
The athletes range in age from 18 to 21 and have all been skiing, on average, they say, since they were about three. They come from across the Province of Quebec and compete in numerous events, including Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super G, and Parallel Slalom.
Some of the women are also students. But the team itself is unaffiliated with any particular education entity.
Ski Québec Alpin is a non-profit organization funded primarily by the provincial government and with the goal of organizing, encouraging, and advancing competitive alpine skiing within Quebec and among its residents.
But Canadian athletes have faced ongoing challenges accessing training and competition during their various 2020-2021 seasons due to strict COVID-19-related travel restrictions, quarantine measures, and cancelled events, and the Quebec Women’s
Alpine Team is no exception.
The last Canadian events the women were able to compete in were held toward the end of November, just as the competitive season was getting started. All North American FIS World Cup Alpine events were cancelled for the season, including races in Beaver Creek, initially slated for December 2020. And the 2021 US NorAm Cup Championships, to be held in Aspen in April, were also cancelled.
With European skiers continuing to compete in FIS events, national championships, and Euro Cup races throughout the season, North American athletes have been placed at a distinct disadvantage, missing out on similar opportunities for point-scoring and career advancement.
In order to make up for some of that loss, Ski Québec Alpin sent contingents of male and female athletes to Europe in late February to compete in events in Italy and Slovenia. And they have now sent them south to the US, with two of the women making a brief competitive stop in Jackson, Wyoming before the crew reconvened at the Eastin Hotel in Kremmling.
Coach Royal says that they were just lucky to find Kremmling while doing a Google search. It is located centrally to competitions the team planned to attend in Winter Park and Steamboat Springs and was also close enough to check out some other resorts, like Copper Mountain, for some training days.
Royal says the price and accommodation were also right at the Hotel Eastin, where the team are the first guests to take advantage of the hotel’s newly-renovated store-front and where they also had the ability to convert the garage into a “tune-up/waxing shop” for their skis in-between time on the mountain.
Hotel Eastin owner Thomas Shepherd notes that the remodel for the “Hospitality Room” was completed the day before the team’s arrival and that the women have been able to use it as “their own space to gather for meals, studying, playing games, simply hanging out and relaxing,” and for watching their male teammates compete on their off-days.
The women have spent two days competing at Winter Park Resort and two days at Steamboat Springs/Mount Werner, participating in two races each day.
Team member Bennett indicates that this has provided an important opportunity for the women. She explains that, in most competitions, individual athletes will participate in a single race, made up of two runs. But with two races and four runs at each of these events, they had the chance to earn more points in a given day.
It has been beneficial indeed, as most of the women have added considerably to their FIS point accumulations and some have achieved significant successes, such as Lamontagne, who ascended the First-Place podium for the first time after a slalom win in Winter Park; Reha, who is the only competitor to have completed every one of her runs (prior to the last Steamboat competition, which had yet to take place at the time of publication); and Cossette, who marked her return to competition after more than a year in injury recovery with a first-place finish at Snow King Mountain Resort in Wyoming and a number of point-qualifying finishes in Colorado.
In their free time, they’ve been finding their way around Kremmling–checking out stores, meeting locals in Big Shooter Coffee, and touring the top of the bluff. They say that they have enjoyed their time in the little hamlet and would even like to return to explore more in the summer and maybe take a raft trip or two.
However, the Ski Québec Alpin women will be headed out on Thursday, April 1, seeking more competition and points at Squaw Valley Resort in California. If all goes well and competition proceeds, they may return to Colorado again next month for the 2021 US Alpine Championships, recently approved at Aspen Snowmass.
Kremmling wishes them the best of luck in this next and all future adventures!
For more information on Ski Québec Alpin, go to https://www.skiquebec.qc.ca. Follow them on Facebook at www. facebook.com/SkiQuebecAlpin/.