It was the spring of 1979. The Crazy Canucks were the toast of the ski racing world. For a young teenager from Calgary, the idea of racing internationally with the likes of Mur and Pod and Irwin and Read was almost too fantastic to believe.
"I'd had a pretty good showing at the Canadian Championships that year," recounts Chris Kent with a grin. "And I guess they were looking for new talent to develop. So the team decided to drag me along to Lake Placid for the pre-Olympic World Cup." He pauses for a moment. The grin gets even bigger. "I was only 17, you know. And even though I had grown up at Lake Louise and knew Ken [Read] pretty well, it was still a heck of a big deal for me to be traveling and racing with such a legendary group of racers..."
Thirty years have come and gone since Kent first raced for Canada. Meanwhile, the Whistler sports-entrepreneur has become one of the most decorated skiers in the country's history. Indeed, there are few events that Chris hasn't managed to master in the last three decades - from head-to-head pro races and grueling endurance tests (he owns a number of world records, including the most vertical feet skied in 24 hours) to early big-mountain events and even a bump contest or two. He virtually owned the Couloir Extreme crown in its heyday and he's been a perennial top finisher in the Peak-to-Valley race. As for his Arctic Man adventures, well, that's fodder for a whole article.
But the memories of that first trip with the Canadian Team still burn bright for the 47-year-old. "The Americans were hosting their nationals a week before the World Cup," he explains. And laughs. "My first day on the course was a total disaster. I was on the upper section of the downhill on Whiteface Mountain and the track was harder and icier than anything I'd ever seen before. We were on our 'inspection skis' and my edges weren't holding worth a damn." Suddenly Kent started to feel his skis go. What to do?
"I was on one of the steepest sections of the course," he explains. "And now I was skidding sideways down the mountain. I was going slow, but I was definitely losing control of my skis." Desperate for a way out of this awkward situation, the young racer tried to steer his skis towards the edge of the run where there might be some softer snow to slow his skid. Mistake. His ski tips got caught in the loose snow and twisted him around. He flailed mightily but there was no chance to recover. He went down. Hard.
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