Considering they are cross country skiers, Andrea Stapff’s Junior Race team spends a lot of time on roller skis, far from the mountain.
“It just goes to show that good athletes and athletes that are committed to performing at a high level, they can come from anywhere,” Stapff said.
For the Junior Race Team, the season runs from May to March, with competitions starting in December and ending in March. For the younger kids, besides fun outings and training camps in the summer, the season starts in earnest in September.
“It’s a hard sport,” she said. “Hard in that the kids work hard.”
When there isn’t snow on the ground, the athletes do a lot of running, roller skiing and strengthening exercises using their own body weight. Stapff said some of the other kids go to the gym to do weight training, but, for the most part, the team gathers outdoors to train.
“The snow falls and the kids are like ‘okay we are done with dry land we want to go’, it doesn’t matter if we don’t have the groomed trails yet we will just get up there in skis and play in the snow,” she said.
Stapff came from an alpine skiing background. Back in Ontario her parents owned a ski shop and she started really young. As she got older, she got into rowing. With that came a more serious introduction to cross country skiing as she did it for cross training during the rowing off season. Stapff competed internationally and got into coaching. She originally moved to the West Coast for rowing, but as jobs took her further up the Island, and closer to a ski resort, she got back into cross country.
While working at the Strathcona Park Lodge, Stapff’s kids got into cross country skiing, and Stapff started volunteering as a coach.
She got the head coach job after the previous coach, who she had worked side by side with, tragically passed away.
“That is not how I would have liked for that to happen,” she said. “He was an amazing guy and a great coach.”
But the program had to go on.
Now, almost three years later, Stapff is coaching an athlete who is going to Soldier Hollow, Utah to try out for the Canadian Junior team.
“He’s a rock star,” she said.
At nordic ski competitions there are two categories of races, sprint and distance. In each category there are different age groups, and different distances. Stapff said the 5-year-olds might sprint 200 metres and the 17-year-olds might sprint 1.2 km. As for long distances, Stapff said her racers have done 30 km.
“The racing and the training that they do to be able to sprint and do distance is a lot,” she said. “They work really hard for a bunch of young people, which is really cool, which is one of the things I like about it.”
Now that there is snow on the mountain the kids can set aside their roller skis and get back to what they love, playing in the snow.
Stapff herself prefers cross country skiing because it is self propelled and gives her the chance to enjoy the scenery, though she does want to do more downhill skiing.