Over the past 20 years, Teck Regional Snow camps, like the one held at the Whistler Olympic Park at the end of November, have proved to be a crucial step in the development of many local athletes.
Names like Benita Peiffer, who was just named to the Canadian Biathlon World Cup team, and Michael Murdoch, who has represented Canada at many international events like the 2020 World Junior Championships in Oberwiesenthal, Germany, have used these camps as a stepping stone to success early in their young careers.
According to Murdoch, attending multiple Teck camps around a decade ago was vitally important, not only in his development, but also in sparking his love for the sport and giving him a benchmark to strive for.
“I think when you are at that age, you are doing a sport like cross-country skiing, but you don’t really understand how to take it seriously or whether or not you even want to take it seriously. So I think these camps are a great opportunity for young athletes to get a first-hand experience on how you should conduct yourself as an athlete, and it’s a great opportunity to hang out with other kids who have similar passions and goals,” he said.
“I remember when I first started going to them when I was young, it was always cool seeing the older kids and seeing how they go through the sport. It’s like a bright light as an athlete—you see these cool, older skiers and you want to look up to them and be them.”
This year’s camp hosted 47 athletes aged nine to 14 from different Nordic clubs up and down the Sea to Sky including Whistler Nordics Ski Club, North Vancouver’s Hollyburn Cross Country Ski Club and the Sea to Sky Nordic Club in Squamish.
The camp split the athletes into multiple groups and consisted of some technique work followed by games and relays designed to hold the youths’ attention, followed by some fun evening activities like movie nights and scavenger hunts, with all the meals being catered by Whistler Food Co.
“The goal is really to get them stoked about this sport. It’s so important to have friends at this age group, so getting more friends from other clubs and being more keen to go to competitions,” said head coach Maria Lundgren.
“It’s super fun, and it’s huge for athletes in the region here. They are so keen and so excited to be a part of the program. Many of them go home and they’ll be extra stoked, and they’ll come to the races, and they’ll know friends when they come to the competitions.”
While the snowfall over the weekend of November 27-28 made for challenging cross-country conditions, everyone was just excited to be back after not being able to hold the camps last year, according to Lundgren who said it was all smiles from the kids even though they had to deal with wet and snowy conditions.
For Lundgren, who has been involved in these camps for the past 15 years, the one part of the camp that she holds most dear to her heart is being able to witness, first-hand, the passion for the sport in a new generation of young athletes.
And seeing that spark get ignited for the sport she loves so much is what keeps her coming back to run the camps years after she thought she’d retire from them.
“These camps definitely take a lot more to organize than working with high-level athletes, but at the end of the day I always look back and [I think] this is the future for our sport. I do this because I love it, it makes me very excited to see young skiers keen and coming up through the program, it’s very rewarding work,” said Lundgren.
“This year I actually had my oldest daughter in the camp, so it was extra special. I said I was going to retire before she starts coming to the camps, but she was in the camp this weekend and had a great time too meeting new friends so that was an extra special moment for me.”
While the Teck camps are done for this year, they will be returning next fall for the annual dryland training camps that are hosted in each of the province’s four regions (Northern B.C., Coast, Kootenays and Okanagan), before the snow camps get back underway in November and December.