This year's annual Whistler Mountain Ski Club's (WMSC) trip to the La Parva Ski Centre in Chile almost didn't take place.
A warm, dry and windy mid-season in the Chilean mountains left several runs peppered with stones and sand.
"We were close to cancelling our camp or moving it somewhere else," said Rob Boyd, FIS head coach with the WMSC.
But on the advice of La Parva mountain manager and WMSC alumnus Raul Anguita, the club held out.
"(Anguita) said, 'Hold on, hold on, just wait for this weekend we'll see what happens,'" Boyd said.
"And sure enough, we got the snow and it turned out to be a fantastic training camp for not just us, but the other groups that were down there with us."
Twenty young skiers aged 15-18 made the trip this year, and found themselves training alongside some of the best in the world.
"There was the French development women's speed team, there was the Alberta men, the Ontario team, and then a few American development teams as well," Boyd said.
"It's hugely beneficial. When they're training on the course right beside, say, the French women, who are having their time trials and laying down some incredibly strong skiing and clean arcs... before long they're going to be mimicking and copying and doing the same thing."
Leaving on September 11 and returning September 30, the trip afforded the ski club 13 full days of skiing on the mountain.
"We did seven days straight, one day off, and then six more days straight, and they all did really well," Boyd said.
During their down time — if you could call it that — the kids would study video from the day's runs or catch up on their school work.
In terms of what skiing techniques were focused on during the trip, Boyd said it was a little bit of everything — from back-to-basics, foundational work to refining some already established skills.
"We're often — through video or just verbally at the bottom of each run — reminding them of things to work on, giving them a focus," Boyd said.
"The more that they do it, the more it becomes natural, and that's what we're after — trying to make it so natural and sort of intuitive that they don't really have to think about it anymore."
The trip also serves as a great precursor to the Canadian ski season back home.
"We as coaches have to sometimes remind them, you know, don't be taking this for granted, let's make sure you take full advantage of this," Boyd said.
"Get the right sleep, get the right food and nutrition and hydration in you so that you can maximize every day, and when they really wrap their head around that we see great response and really good results from their skiing, and they see it too."
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